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SXSW ’12 Doc Review: Teens Aimlessly Wonder Through The Night In “Tchoupitoulas”

SXSW '12 Doc Review: Teens Aimlessly Wonder Through The Night In "Tchoupitoulas"

There seems to have been mostly documentaries featured this year at SXSW for the films pertaining to our site. One of them, Tchoupitoulas, helmed by brothers Bill and Turner Ross, began promisingly. The beginning sequences instantly hooks the viewer; the film introduces our teen protagonists in their New Orleans home, as they partake in domestic sibling rivalry, showcasing a palpably real, amusing and bittersweet dynamic between the youngest and one of the oldest brothers.

The teens, along with their dog, decide to venture into the New Orleans’ naughty and vivid nightlife. The film centers on the charismatic youngest brother, whose innocence and curiousity is the focus of most of the film; however, the documentary can be mostly appreciated by the pictorial scenery, vibrant music and peculiar entertainers and perfomers more than the actual interactions between the brothers.

There are few funny exchanges; especially as the youngest is frequently teased by his older brothers; but unfortunately, it becomes wearily redundant. This 80-min documentary would have worked best as short. The brothers’ journey becomes tiresome; the documentary ends up dragging, until it comes to a point when you really want these boys to go home and get some food; you can’t help to ask to yourself, “where is this going?” 

The filmmakers set out to record one night through the eyes of young impressionable minds; the adventure is more of an experiment, since their odyssey really leads to nowhere. There are several long takes, a few which didn’t take place in the pintoresque streets. The brothers end up exploring an abandoned boat, and later on they wait to catch a ferry back their side of town; ordinary and unremarkable experiences.

I went in expecting an exhilarating experience, or some other meaningful occurrence, but I left the theater feeling underwhelmed. Overall, the documentary’s strenghts lie in its photography, art direction, sound mixing and editing. Other than that, there’s not much substance.

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