By Invitation Only

A brave critique of an alluring family tradition
Year Released
Film Length(s)
56 mins
Remote video URL


New Orleans filmmaker Rebecca Snedeker explores the insular world of the elite, white Carnival societies and debutante balls of Mardi Gras. Questioning their racial exclusivity, she takes an unprecedented insider's look at the pageantry and asks: what does it mean to be the queen of the masked men? As she examines her own place in an alluring tradition, Snedeker challenges viewers to reflect on the roles we all play in our lives. Ideal for courses in gender studies, sociology, anthropology, american studies, multicultural studies, southern history and psychology.

Featured review

For anyone who wants to understand racism and white privilege, this film is a must-see.
Ron Chisom
Co-Founder and Executive Director, The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond


By Invitation Only is a brilliant, and utterly unique examination of class and race privilege, and shows us just how deeply embedded are the structures of entitlement and expectation for members of the ruling class, not only in New Orleans, frankly, but nationwide. Most importantly, Rebecca Snedeker explores the ways in which this system not only dehumanizes those who stand outside of it, but even those for whom its benefits were intended. For those who seek an understanding of what was broken with the American class and race systems, long before Hurricane Katrina, 'By Invitation Only' is a fantastic place to start.
Tim Wise
Author, White Like Me: Reflections on Race From a Privileged Son
Just imagine being in the center of New Orleans debutante and Carnival traditions and opting out of all that power and privilege! Snedeker had beauty, brains, money, and entitlement. She poignantly records her stepping back, rethinking, reconsidering, reorienting herself into a wider way of being in the world, outside of the social and emotional prisons of her caste, class, and racial position. This sensitive autobiographical video can be especially valuable for work on class and race awareness and on diversity in general. It invites the viewer to Just Imagine giving up some unearned privilege, and living a stronger and more coherent life as a result of this decision.
Peggy McIntosh Associate Director
Wellesley Centers for Women Author, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack"
A personal documentary in which the liberal filmmaker rubs against the upper-crust Mardi Gras traditions of her society family, realizing there's no place in the celebrations for her African-American boyfriend. It's a smart, tantalizing take on class and race that traces 100 years of parallel New Orleans history, white and black.
Gerald Peary
The Boston Phoenix
This film is a great teaching tool for introducing students to the concept of white privilege. The documentary also provides rich material for an analysis of the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and class.
Abby Ferber Professor of Womens Studies and Sociology
University of Colorado Author/Editor, Privilege: A Reader
White privilege may reproduce itself crudely and overtly, by whip and fire—or subtly and discreetly, by debutante ball and carnival celebration. In this fascinating insider's documentary on New Orleans' Mardi Gras world of floats and parades, Rebecca Snedeker shows how racial exclusivity—white kings and queens ruling an unreconstructed antebellum aristocracy of color—masks itself as innocuous family tradition and holiday reveling. She may have given up her own chance of a crown, but she has performed a queenly service in the long quest for a more racially democratic realm.
Dr. Charles Mills
John Evans Professor of Moral and Intellectual Philosophy at Northwestern University, Author, The Racial Contract

Awards and Screenings

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, 2006
PBS Broadcast, 2006
New Orleans Film Festival, 2006
Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival, 2007
White Privilege Conference, 2007
American Sociological Association, 2007
Ballroom Marfa, 2007

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