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Named for the New Orleans street that traces the Mississippi River from the southern edge of the French Quarter through Uptown, Tchoupitoulas is a lyrical nighttime exploration of the city from the point of view of three brothers who embark on a secret, illicit adventure in the Big Easy. On the heels of Bryan, Kentrell and especially little William Zanders, filmmakers Bill and Turner Ross (who are brothers themselves) dip into the flow of Crescent City nightlife—the revelers, the hustlers, the street preachers and especially the musicians—with a vérité camera, watching and listening, without motive or commentary. The result is less documentary than experience, an immersion in a neighborhood infused with culture and soul.

From the moment the Zanders boys board the ferry for Tchoupitoulas and beyond with their dog Buttercup in tow, their adventure is accompanied by a steady stream of jibber-jabber on topics ranging from Michael Jackson to a literal interpretation of the term “hot dog” to what superpower they’d most like to have. William is the source of most of this chatter, his monologues on his latest dream and the girl he likes (who happens to be dating his best friend) serving as transitions between chapters of sorts. There’s no discernible structure to these interludes—just the stream-of-consciousness of an adorable adolescent whose vulnerability is revealed as the night wears on. “I need my beauty sleep,” he argues as he grows tired. “Trust me, it’s not a good sight.” Then, poignantly, “I’m just a child…”

While the brothers ogle the sparkly sights out on the streets, the Rosses poke into back stages and alleyways, capturing some of the more lurid and entertaining aspects of the city: acrobatic stripteases, drag shows, jazz. Throughout, the brothers often just let their cameras run, demonstrating not only deft control of an incredibly mobile image but an ability to find the story, even if it isn’t center stage. Watching Tchoupitoulas, one imagines, is like walking down its namesake street for the first time: disorienting, overwhelming and thrilling.

Directors: Bill & Turner Ross
Starring: William Zanders, Bryan Zanders, Kentrell Zanders
Release Date: Dec. 7, 2012