Published Apr 28, 2011To provide some context, the reason the subjects of this documentary dress up in exaggerated, somewhat garish, Native Indian garb during Mardi Gras in New Orleans every year has something to do with their lineage, descending from slaves that were given shelter by Natives in the bayous.
How this historical titbit evolved to the seemingly racially insensitive Pocahontas, Queen of the Bayou drag show and performance, wherein multitudes of black New Orleans denizens dress up in huge, bright headdresses and suits of beadwork, getting drunk in the streets, is anyone's guess.
Aaron Walker's documentary is less interested in contextualizing than it is in providing straightforward documentation, following around various "tribe" leaders as they sew images depicting lynching into Native garb and glue feathers and sequins to bright pink and yellow outfits. It really is like the preparation for a drag show, only with pious black men offering slurred advice to members of their community, as opposed to boisterous queens making snide remarks and offering tips on how to hide peen effectively.
Some effort is made to relate this tradition to the geography of Louisiana, detailing how the construction of an interstate highway amidst a middle-class neighbourhood ruined not only the scenery but also the sense of community. But this factoid, much like everything else in Bury the Hatchet, struggles to fit in thematically given its ungraceful juxtaposition and non-deliberate positioning.
It's as though everything in this documentary is random, after-the-fact hearsay tied together only by proximity, reaching desperately for this uniform idea of a district decimated. The problem is that the only reason this theme even exists here is that Katrina eventually comes along and ruins the homes of all the subjects, leaving them to expand on how that makes them feel for the final 20 minutes of the film, which is tragic, of course, but ultimately incidental and unintended. (Cine-Marais)