Found film of 1898 Mardi Gras parade

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Found film of 1898 Mardi Gras parade

Since the 1980s researchers have been searching for the film, searching the Library of Congress, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and elsewhere

A researcher at the Eye Filmmuseum in Amsterdam recently located a film from an 1898 Mardi Gras parade, believed to be the earliest known footage from New Orleans. In the two-minute film, crowds of well-dressed onlookers watch as a line of elaborate floats, one of which includes a live ox, passes by.

Since the 1980s researchers have been searching for the film, searching the Library of Congress, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and elsewhere. In vain. Until a lawyer and float historian, Will French, mentioned it to a family friend who worked as a researcher at the Eye Filmmuseum. Mackenzie Roberts Beasley spotted the 124-year-old film.

Recently, a digitized version of the film was screened at the Louisiana State Museum. Visitors will be able to see it until December, as part of a special exhibition in honor of 150 years of the Rex Organization, one of the most prominent organizers of the floats of the Mardi Gras parade since it was founded in 1872.

In the film, the float parade is recognizably about Mardi Gras, although the differences from today’s parades are notable. For example, there are no beaded uniforms or railings or police. The spectators have put on their best, the gentlemen are wearing half-high hats, the ladies are wearing parasols. On a chariot, a live ox – boeuf gras –, a tradition that ceased in the early 20th century and represented the last meat people would eat before Lent; today, a papier-mâché ox is used. “This, indeed, was very important – for the first time to see in the parade the live boeuf gras, everyone’s symbol of the carnivalWill French, historian and archivist for the Rex Organization, told The New York Times. The film was shot on 68mm film, hence the details are still visible after 124 years. The clarity of the images in the film “eit is so incredible. It’s a time capsuleMackenzie Roberts Beasley pointed out.

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