The Order of Myths
Rating (out of 5): ****½
Margaret Brown's documentary The Order of Myths examines the social labyrinth of Mardi Gras carnivals in Mobile, Alabama. The oldest celebration of its kind in the country is dominated by two racially segregated organizations that have held separate coronations and parades for over 300 years. To an outsider, the divide, so rigidly defended yet cloaked in hospitality, is an incredibly costumed prism to look at race relations as a whole in America. Brown follows the white queen Helen, an inarticulate but gracious debutante that the film tacitly acknowledges has been elected more due to bloodlines than royal qualities; and the black queen Stephanie, a schoolteacher who is scraping to pay for the elaborate dress and festivities (upwards of $20,000) but holds the tradition in equally high esteem.
Adding a layer of unease to the proceedings, both queens know off hand that Helen's direct ancestors were involved with one of the final slave transactions in Mobile, which brought Stephanie's family to this country. Explaining how a black neighborhood now known as "Africatown" was formed, a white woman cautiously recounts the story of a shipful of captured Africans who were forced to flee into the woods while the boat was torched in an effort to destroy evidence.
Read the rest of this review at Greencine.