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  The Order of Myths

Featuring: Helen Meather, Max Bruckmann, Joseph Robertson, Stefannie Lucas

Directed by: Margaret Brown

Produced by: Sara Alize Cross

Written by: Margaret Brown

Distributor: Cinema Guild


As seen at the 2008 Los Angeles Film Festival:

     Margaret Brown’s The Order of Myths, a simply-structured documentary covering contemporary race-relations in the American South, offers a socially-stirring portrait of an underrepresented setting. The title refers to a prestigious ceremony at the Unites States’ oldest Mardi-Gras celebrations in Mobile, Alabama. I say celebrations—plural—because there are two of them: one for whites and one for blacks. Yes, there is at least one public institution in America that is still officially segregated by race.

     Thankfully, The Order of Myths doesn’t ever preach about the necessity of racial tolerance in American society or portray the issue in any other conventional manner. Director Brown is more self-assured than to rely on the typical “We shall overcome!”-style mantra taken on by countless afterschool specials that tackle the same topic. In fact, she allows subjects of all views solid amounts of talking-time: both whites and blacks who believe that there’s no reason for the ceremonies not to be segregated and those who believe they should be merged.

     Brown specifically follows the 2007 ceremonies on both sides, which mark the first instances of the kings and queens of either event attending functions of the other. We meet Helen Meather and Max Bruckmann—white king and queen—and Joseph Roberson and Stefannie Lucas—black king and queen—as they prepare for the day of the Mardi Gras Parade. (And, no, it isn’t the alcohol-filled event that we typically think of when it comes to New Orleans’ version of the “historical ritual.”) Each of the four are followed and interviewed in detail, as are other town-members including, the viewer learns in the film’s final moments, Brown’s own very-traditional grandfather.

     The Order of Myths isn’t the terrific film that it is because of its depiction of the Mardi Gras  celebrations themselves. Rather, it functions as an eye-opening cultural-artifact. Those who live in the South and have encountered the movie’s material in their everyday lives may not be quite as captivated by it, but as a Californian who has never observed real racial-discrimination firsthand, the experience proved rather riveting for me. That there is still a place in the United States with a citywide parade that involves separately scheduled appearance-times for its white and black participants is fascinating to me. And to see this captured on film is borderline-otherworldly.

     Some will undoubtedly label me as ignorant for making the aforementioned admission, but I think a lot of Americans are in the same camp as me. Will The Order of Myths lead me to become an activist for racial-justice? Of course not. Actually, I tend to side with the opinions of white-parade king Bruckmann who, despite enjoying his time at a “blacks-only” party before the black parade, sees no need for the two events to be forcibly merged. (No individual is barred from any race’s function, but a rebel would likely be humiliated for going against custom.) Whatever one’s view of the issues presented, The Order of Myths is an effective picture in the way that it captures the stunning complexities of what many would assume to be a simple issue (after all, the topic could be boiled down to “the existence of two Mardi Gras parades in single city”). Talented crew and candid subjects at her disposal, Brown has fashioned a documentary that is well worth supporting when it reaches your local arthouse cinema.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 6.29.2008

Screened on: 9.21.2008 at the Mann Festival in Westwood, CA.


The Order of Myths is Not Rated and runs 97 minutes.

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