(submitted by Deb Lukjanovs, FilmDayton volunteer)
Two brothers whose careers as filmmakers began when they documented the everyday people and events in their hometown of Sidney, Ohio have come full circle, to film three brothers on the move in their own vastly different hometown of New Orleans. Bill and Turner Ross—whose first feature length film, “45365″, won a number of accolades including the 2009 SXSW Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature—have now turned their cameras and their creative genius to Tchoupitoulas. The name means “river people” in Choctaw Indian, and shares its name with a New Orleans street, a restaurant, and a district outside the city. Tchoupitoulas, which premiered at SXSW this year, has also brought in several awards, including the 2012 Hot Docs HBO Documentary Films Emerging Artist Award, the 2012 Dallas International Film Festival’s award for best documentary, and the 2012 Ashland Independent Film Festival’s best documentary award. The film’s Dayton debut, along with a Q and A session with the Ross brothers, takes place at the FilmDayton Festival, on Sunday, August 26 at 7:15 PM at the Neon Movies.
The Ross brothers have deep roots in both Ohio and New Orleans. Their mother still lives in 45365 (the zip code in Sidney), where their first film takes place. Dayton filmmakers Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar have served—in Bill Turner’s words—as the brothers’ “cinematic parents” following their first film effort. The couple reached out to them through an email greeting them with “Greetings from 45387” after seeing 45365. The Ross’ father lives in New Orleans, so the brothers have had a long term relationship with the city of New Orleans as well. That early exposure to the city informed their vision of the film. “We had spent a decent amount of time in New Orleans as kids,” said filmmaker Bill Ross, who shared camera time with his brother Turner and also edited the film. “We wanted to sort of get to feelings and images that had stuck in our heads as little guys. We were hoping to find some kids and just go along with whatever adventures they were on.”
The two brothers found the three brothers entirely by accident—and the result of that chance meeting is the surreal and dreamlike Tchoupitoulas, their second feature documentary, which follows the three boys through the sometimes scary but always interesting landscape of nocturnal New Orleans. The Ross brothers began by filming some of the strangeness of NOLA’s late night life, but seven months later they happened upon the three Zander brothers and Tchoupitoulas began taking shape. “We were up every night, filming all night long,” said Ross, who has lived in NOLA intermittently for most of his life. “One day, we were up and out during the day, and these kids walked right past us. We immediately said ‘These are the guys’ and went up to talk with them.”
The kids turned out to be the Zander brothers, Kentrell (16), Bryan (15), and William (11). They were immediately interested in the idea of the movie, but talking them into being in it was not easy. “The two older ones tried to talk us out of having William in it because he was ‘too annoying,’” Ross said. “It took us about 20 minutes to talk them into letting him be in the film.”