Ross brothers get film honors

By Patricia Ann Speelman -

SIDNEY — Sidney natives and documentary filmmakers Turner Ross and Bill Ross have been recognized and honored by an important organization: they were named among the 10 best filmmakers of the last decade by Cinema Eye Honors.

The brothers, now living in New Orleans, were cited for their first three, full-length documentaries, “45365,” “Tchoupitoulas” and “Western.”

Cinema Eye Honors were established 10 years ago to recognize and honor exemplary craft and innovation in nonfiction film, according to its website.

“The organization marked the beginning of its 10th annual edition by announcing the 10 filmmakers and 20 films that have been named as among the top achievements in nonfiction filmmaking over Cinema Eye’s first decade,” according to a press release.

“When Cinema Eye launched nearly a decade ago, it sprung from a sense of urgency to change the conversation around documentary filmmaking and to recognize nonfiction as an inherently artistic medium,” said Cinema Eye Founding Director AJ Schnack in the release. “Now, almost a decade later, it’s more clear than ever that nonfiction filmmakers are amongst the most creative practitioners of filmmaking craft and artistry. We’re thrilled to begin the celebrations for our first 10 years by naming these films and filmmakers who helped this exceptional decade.”

Earlier this year, Cinema Eye polled 110 key members of the documentary community for their votes on the filmmakers and films that would comprise the final list.

Being included was a surprise to the Rosses, who had not been asked to vote. They are somewhat awed by it.

“They reached out to voices in the (nonfiction filmmaking) community. They all voted on filmmakers who’d made an impact in the last 10 years. We were very honored to be voted into that,” Turner said by phone recently. “When you look at that line-up of filmmakers, it (feels) almost like we scribbled our faces on Mount Rushmore.”

“We had seen films (by those other honorees when we were) growing up, at the Neon (in Dayton). It feels a little awkward to e on the same page as Steve James, the director of “Hoop Dreams,” added Bill.

It’s too soon to tell if the listing will open new doors for the brothers.

“But any award that we’ve won contributes to opportunity,” Turner said.

Their most recent release, “Western,” explores the relationship between two small towns separated by the Rio Grande River. For decades, the Rosses said, the people of Eagle Pass, Texas, and Piedras Negras, Mexico, behaved like neighbors. And then the U.S. government put up a fence between them.

“The economics and socio-economics, the cultural community, transcends politcal boundaries,” Turner said. “‘Western’ is a portrait of the community on both sides of the border, facing changing times.”

It premiered in 2015 at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. It had a theatrical premiere earlier this year.

“For a work like ours, (premiering at Sundance) was a great way to get exposure and press traction. It creates international interest, as well,” Turner said. “Western” is available for streaming on Netflix, Amazon and iTunes. So is “Tchoupitoulas,” a film set in New Orleans.

Their latest venture is already in the can. “Contemporary Color” will premiere theatrically next year. It chronicles a concert in New York City by David Byrne, the former lead singer of Talking Heads.

“He was putting on a concert performance in New York with flag corps teams. He wanted to collaborate with someone to make a film. He reached out to us,” Turner said. “It has an interesting cameo by Mike Hartsock.”

Hartsock is the longtime sportscaster on WHIO-TV in Dayton.

“David was putting on this show. It was sort of a sporting event. We hired Mike to be the play-by-play voice of the thing,” Bill added.

And immediately following the phone conversation with the Daily News, the brothers were off to scout locations for the next movie. It takes about a year to shoot each full-length film, another year to edit it and a third to find a buyer or distributor. Finding funding is always the challenge.

“Whether it’s Bill and I working together or a massive project or friends making studio films, trying to get the money to make it happen is always the challenge,” Turner said. “We don’t have a deficit of ideas.”

Other documentarians named in the Cinema Eye Honors’ decade’s best list are Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, Alex Gibney, Patricio Guzman, Werner Herzog, Steve James, Kim Longinotto, Joshua Oppenheimer, Laura Poitras and Frederick Wiseman.

By Patricia Ann Speelman

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.