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We Won't Bow Down

Mardi Gras Indian Doc Explores Untold Stories Over 8 Years

Mardi Gras and Super Sunday are over for the year, but a new film will put Mardi Gras Indians in the spotlight again tomorrow night. We Won’t Bow Down premieres tomorrow night.  


There is very little documented about the roots of the Mardi Gras Indian culture, as customs were passed down primarily through oral traditions. Filmmaker Chris Bower’s documentary keeps this history in mind in his filmmaking approach.


“There’s no narration, no one else is speaking in the movie except for Mardi Gras Indians,” said Bower. “There’s no professors. Everybody that’s speaking is part of the culture and I thought that was important because this is how the tradition has been passed down.”


A native of Asheville, N.C., Bower took eight years to make his documentary, a lengthy process that required years of research and trust-building.


“There is a great deal of skepticism and back when I first started there was a lot of concern about that, and there still is,” said Bower. “That’s totally legit. There are a lot of people who take photographs and sell photographs and don’t even share the money with the people in the photos,” he said.


So, Bower made an effort to forge friendships with members of the widespread Mardi Gras Indian community, from Uptown to back-of-town. “I didn’t shoot a lot of film for the first few years. [I engaged] by being there everyday, not breaking the camera out from the get-go,” he said.


Bower said that he tried to get in touch with as many Indians as possible. “I really wanted to bring the voice of a lot of just street Indians—not famous performers, not famous musicians,” said Bower.


Sewing is a critical aspect of Mardi Gras Indian culture not just for the suits, but also for the kind of communication the process opens up between members of the community. "When they’re sewing, they’re talking. That’s how you learn," said Bower. 


“The great thing about the culture is that they were able to take a violent culture where, literally, people were going to war with each other, and turn that into a creative, non-violent battle with the suits,” said Bower.


However, the filmmaker did not sugar coat the very real effort to be the "prettiest Indian." 


"It can get tense out there. If you’ve ever been out on Mardi Gras Day, you can see it get tense. I don’t think there is a desire for violence. It’s a competitive thing with the beauty of the city. It’s based in craftsmanship now," Bower said. 


We Won’t Bow Down premieres Saturday, April 12 at the World War II Museum’s Solomon Victory Theatre (945 Magazine St.), with a red carpet screening at 7:15 p.m., and a general screening at 9:15 p.m.. Wendell Pierce is presenting tomorrow’s screenings. Proceeds from the film will go to the Pontchartrain Park Neighborhood Association. 


Watch the trailer here:


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Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde


Art Director

Michael Weber, B.A.


Listings Editor

Linzi Falk

Editor Emeritus

Alexis Manrodt

B. E. Mintz

Stephen Babcock

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