Sons of Tennessee Williams, on DVD now from First Run Features, is a glittering documentary about glittering drag queens in glittering parades in glittering New Orleans. It’s very shiny. But it’s also quite deep, as interspersed with the joyous celebration of gay Mardi Gras is a considerable amount of sober reflection on civil rights.
The history of the gay Mardi Gras, the civil rights battles and the gay clubs in New Orleans is what really fascinated me about the documentary. I mean, yes, the drag queens and their parade and their exuberance is fun, but when put in context it’s a far more interesting event. The inclusion of archival footage goes a long way to putting today’s celebrations in context. And the coolest characters in the movie are the old men – sometimes VERY old men – who were there when the whole thing started.
Sons of Tennessee Williams is more than just a voyeuristic look into the world of drag queens and gay Mardi Gras. Although it is that also. It’s also a thought-provoking civil rights documentary that works on many levels. I highly recommend it.