The film is bass-heavy, and its stars have slow gaits — it’s a dreamy picture of New Orleans at night. Music was blasting from across the street when William met up with his older brothers (Bryan and Kentrell) at home. Once the rowdiness of their home faded into a quieter noise, William amplified it again by playing his recorder. (He’s the provocateur of the family.)
After an undisclosed amount of time had passed, the three brothers called in another day by skipping rocks at a harbor — flanked by their pitbull (Buttercup). At sunset, they watched waves of water and public and private life — planning their festivities for the evening because they’d missed a return ferry to Algiers. When they were ready, they strolled the French Quarter excitedly, competing over who was most familiar with Michael Jackson’s discography. As William raved about ‘Billie Jean’ and moonwalking, Bryan and Kentrell humored him in that sweet, abiding manner of older siblings.
There was much to see in the city, and they were drawn to the wild, adult attractions that surrounded them. The brothers didn’t have to pay a dime for entertainment because they had each other, daring impulses, bare windows, and a bevy of street performers. Lined with brass and string players, percussionists, dancers, bars, tourists and Christian proselytizers, the streets were an eclectic party.
As a proselytizer advised William to live devoutly in order to access Heaven, a cutaway scene revealed more of his dreams for earthly life: to be the first and only person to fly without contraptions. In addition to traveling to new cities, he’d plan to see his father for the first time. William didn’t show resentment for his father’s absence, prizing the time they could have together over the time they’d already lost. This kindness was matched by his belief in an afterlife devoid of cruelty — where there are no ordinances that require underdogs.
Tchoupitoulas is a caring glimpse of Black boyhood in Louisiana, and the adventures therein. Surely worth watching.
**This documentary is available for free streaming on Tubi