If you haven’t heard of the Mardi Gras Indians, you probably aren’t alone. Most people in the city of New Orleans don’t know of their existence despite being their home base. The Mardi Gras Indians are a group of African Americans who dress up as Native Americans in honour of their protection of runaway slaves in the bayou during the American Civil War. These Indians are very well organized and sport incredibly ornate costumes despite never having a fully sanctioned parade during the yearly Mardi Gras celebration. Instead, they parade through their own respective inner city neighbourhoods in a tradition spanning over a hundred years.
In the film Bury the Hatchet (showing at the Hot Docs festival on Tuesday, May 3 at 4:30 p.m. at the Cumberland 3) from music video veteran and documentarian Aaron Walker, the audience is taken into the worlds of three of the Mardi Gras Indians “Big Chiefs” (Monk Boudreaux, Alfred Doucette, and Victor Harris) and it shows just how much preparation goes into such a mysterious and secretive neighbourhood tradition. The film also shows the impact that Hurricane Katrina had on the lives of these men since production of the film began and wrapped mere months before the deadliest storm in American history changed the world forever.
Director Aaron Walker graciously sat down to talk about his latest film with Criticize This! and discussed the challenges of filming what has essentially remained unseen to mainstream audiences and his own fears for the production.