The ancestor of the carnival is the Feast of Fools. During the Middle Ages, between Christmas and Epiphany, everything was turned upside down. The poor could mock the rich, and the lowly could deride the powerful. A “fool’s pope” was elected and people could disguise themselves as bulls, cows, deer or other pagan divinities. In New Orleans, the carnival has preserved this sense of liberty. Suddenly, everything is permitted, even the most absurd extravagance.
Drumming and shouting from the crowds… Right from the start, this very short movie filmed in 1958 manages to plunge us into the atmosphere of one of the most famous carnivals in the world. Among the parades of floats and King Kong masks stands out a group of black men dancing to the sound of tin cans. In New Orleans, upending the norms is not limited to calling into question social or gender barriers. The race issue also raises its ugly head, reminding us that this city was once one of the country’s biggest slave markets before becoming the birthplace of jazz. Tomorrow, Mardi Gras will be over, and segregation is still in force in the Louisiana of 1958. But the day will soon dawn when Afro-Americans no longer accept giving back their sceptres and formal attire.
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