William has dreams. He wants to moonwalk like Michael Jackson. He imagines playing in the NFL and also to win, “like, six Super Bowl rings, all six of ‘em on one finger.” And he means to spend as much time as he can, for now, with his older brothers, Kentrell and Bryan. At 11 years old, William is all about the future, whether picturing years ahead or quick minutes. His energy is pretty much relentless in Tchoupitoulas, open today in select theaters and expanding in coming weeks. That energy propels Bill and Turner Ross’ film, a portrait of New Orleans that is by turns poetic and poignant and rapturous. As the three brothers lead the camera crew through streets, over railroad tracks, and along the riverfront, they appear to be making their way into on long night, though the film was shot over some nine months.
While temporal ambiguity is surely familiar in accounts of this city, here it takes on another valence, as places and bodies also elide and shift, as light and sound (music, traffic, solicitations) become inextricable. This isn’t to say that the film repeats the trope of French Quartery carnival. It is to say that it posits time and space as internal experience. In this it rethinks documentary parameters, embracing subjectivity and uncertainty, not so much recording what happens as helping you to imagine possibilities.
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