Film goes ‘Down Claiborne’ in N.O.

Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Ave., New York, NY, will screen for three consecutive nights, Feb. 1-3, at 7:30 p.m., Dublin-born filmmaker Moira Tierney’s 51-minute “Down Claiborne.,” as part of its “Show & Tell” series.

One of the most striking aspects of New Orleans’s topography is a highway that cuts right through the city, slicing through, among others, the historic 7th Ward. Built in 1968, it dismantled one of the most active Black neighborhoods, which still operates under the shadows of the “freeway.” The local community reclaims their neighborhood using a variety of tactics: mural painting, represented by the frescoes painted onto the concrete pillars supporting the highway overpass, and collective masking traditions, as evidenced by the Mardi Gras Indians, in the neighborhoods surrounding the highway.

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These two elements of local culture share an insistence on the importance of history, highlighting its role in the perpetuation of the culture and in the ongoing resistance to its displacement. Their content often overlaps (the highway frescoes reference the Mardi Gras Indians as well as the Maroon tradition of runaway slaves and Native Americans forming independent communities) and both operate within the post-colonial “profession of hybridization,” as defined by Haitian poet René Depestre.

“Down Claiborne” — which Film critic and programmer at the Cinemathèque Française Nicole Brenez picked as one of the 10 best films of 2018 — zooms in on the Mississippi and down into the Treme, slides under the highway overpass and moves down Claiborne Avenue from pillar to pillar, building to a celebratory and cathartic climax with the Comanche Hunter and Hard Head Hunter tribes of the Mardi Gras Indians meeting in ceremonial battle on Mardi Gras.

“I shot on Super 8mm and 16mm silent film, editing in camera as much as possible.” said Tierney, a past Irish Echo 40 Under 40 honoree. “I wanted the sound track to add layers of information to the image, without providing an authoritative ‘explanation.’ It was necessary to fill in the gaps in the official histories and I had the idea of the exchange of information via less linear circuitry. I constructed the ‘scenario’ as a collage of voices: excerpts from New Orleans radio stations; spoken word (composed for the film by John Lacarbiere III); two jazz tracks contributed by Mario Abney; extracts from archival material or contemporary event listings; songs of the Mardi Gras Indians, courtesy of B.C. Goodman and B.C. Melancon; and the final voice-over, which was recorded impromptu by B.C. Goodman as we watched a cut of the film together.”

Big Chief Kevin Goodman will be available in person with filmmaker Tierney for a Q&A after all three screenings.

Anthology may be contacted at 212-505-5181. Directions: 2nd St. Subway: F to 2nd Ave; 6 to Bleecker. Tickets: $12 general; $9 for students, seniors, & children (12 & under); $7 Anthology members.

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