Although I'm from New Orleans and celebrated Mardi Gras annually throughout childhood, I knew little about Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama, except that they're very proud to have the oldest American Mardi Gras celebrations, since 1703. (They love to brag to New Orleanians about this.) Margaret Brown's latest documentary, The Order of Myths, showed me that New Orleans isn't the only city with racial issues rife in its Carnival festivities. The movie premiered at Sundance last month before making its way to SXSW.
The Order of Myths focuses on the 2007 Mardi Gras preparations in Mobile, which are blatantly divided by race. Most of the city's parade organizations are all-white; one integrated group founded in 2003, and has a single white member. Mobile has two separate sets of Mardi Gras royalty: a white king and queen (Max Bruckmann and Helen Meaher) and an African-American king and queen (Joseph Roberson and Stefannie Lucas). The movie alternates between the preparations for each side of the segregated Mardi Gras: the clothing designers for the royalty and their courts; the parties and luncheons; and the everyday lives of the people involved.