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SXSW 2012: 'Tchoupitoulas,' a Portrait of New Orleans by Night

Nathan Cone
Bill Ross (left) and Turner Ross (right), directors of "Tchoupitoulas."

Following their acclaimed documentary "45635," Bill and Turner Ross headed south to New Orleans, filming the city almost exclusively at night. "Tchoupitoulas" follows three brothers as they experience what Turner Ross calls a "surreal Pleasure Island."

Tchoupitoulas” is unique in its depiction of the Crescent City. The joyousness and weariness of downtown New Orleans is presented with equal measure. “These aren’t issue-based films,” Turner Ross explains. “It’s portraiture, really, and experience.”
The Ross brothers had been filming in New Orleans for a number of months already when they happened to stumble upon the three leads seen in the film. Three brothers, whose home life is glimpsed only briefly at the beginning of the film, but then embark on a nighttime journey through the Big Easy.

“I think the great rapport we established with those kids was due mostly in part to us being willing to listen to them talk,” Turner adds. “They wanted to have those conversations, but I don’t think anybody’s listening [to them], especially in the case of little William… he’s the most charming kid in the world.”

Still, Turner says the movie is not exactly about the kids, but about seeing New Orleans through their eyes. “It’s that magic, that awe, and that wonder that is the perspective of a child looking at a surreal Pleasure Island.”

The Ross brothers’ next documentary has already been filmed. Turner and Bill Ross recently spent several months in Eagle Pass and northern Mexico, “La Frontera,” as it’s called.

“It’s totally different from New Orleans,” Turner says. “It’s a big, stark, slow, hot landscape.”