2008 Los Angeles Film Festival Review - The Order of Myths

The cool thing about film festivals is that at any given moment, a good film could find and entertain an unsuspecting audience. 

The 2008 Los Angeles Film Festival is in full swing!

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Most people would agree that segregation is not a pretty word. However, the institution of Segregation seems to still sit just fine with both the Black and White constituency in certain areas of the South. The time: Modern Day 2007. The Place: Mobile, Alabama. The Players: all-white organization MCA (Mobile Carnival Association) and all black organization MAMGA (Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association). The Stage: Mardi Gras celebration.

The MAMGA Mardi Gras queen, Queen Stephanie

In Mobile, Alabama, Blacks are not allowed to ride the Mardi Gras floats. Their involvement in the annual parade is restricted to torchbearers, musicians or dancers. Black kids should not expect to get thrown beams or moon pies from the MCA King and Queen; its not tradition. They will have to wait an hour later for the MAMGA parade to take place.

In her latest film, The Order of Myths, Documentarian Margaret Brown explores what is described as ‘the late stronghold of segregation’, mystic orders that are alive and well, and plentiful in Mobile, Alabama. The film follows the pageantry, politics and preparation for Mardi Gras from the prospective of the White MCA King and Queen, and from the view of the Black MAMGA King and Queen. The film shows the parallels between the White and the Black “Mardi Gras court” while illustrating that each organization knows its traditional place in the scheme of the town’s yearly celebration. The film unearths unexpected, if not ironic connections between the two Queens and also documents the historic appearance of the MAMGA King and Queen to the MCA coronation ceremony.

Mystic Societies thrive on the assurance of amoninity

It’s hard to argue with the “if it aint broke don’t fix it” mentality that seems prevalent in the matter of Mardi Gras in Mobile. And the argument that the separation is for the preservation of tradition is also a good one. However, forward thinking individuals must still recognize the very subtle distinction between the prestige of exclusivity and the potentially destructive practice of elitism and racial exclusion. To Brown’s credit, the audience can clearly see that this mentality is perpetuated on both sides of the “issue”.

This is perhaps the first film to examine race that did not leave me feeling angry. The voices of this documentary are intelligent and sincere, yet most of us, outside of this environment and culture would question how evolve they are culturally, particularly given the inexplicable level of expectance. It’s clearly inequality, and yet even elementary school kids already understand that this is the way things are. Brown does a great job of providing an even cross-section of both the white and black perspectives, although at certain points in the film, it would have been telling to see the demographic belong to the off-screen voice of either descent or corroboration.

It's not Mardi Gras with the floats

The Order of Myths is part of the summer Preview series at the 2008 Los Angeles Film Festival running now through June 29th at the Westwood Village.

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