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Rooftop Films @ SXSW: 45365

Mark Elijah Rosenberg is the Founder and Artistic Director of Rooftop Films; look for film reviews from him and the rest of the Rooftop crew throughout the week.

One of the enjoyable challenges of 45365 (a documentary portrait of Sidney, Ohio, made by brothers Bill Ross IV & Turner Ross, native sons) is just how difficult it is to write about. Like the old joke about the dancer asked to explain her dance, to which she replies, “If I could explain it, I wouldn’t go to all the trouble of dancing it.” With a free-form verite film like 45365, the only way to explain it: to describe every luscious and gritty shot, football fields, factories, fist fights and fair grounds; to perform all the flatly fantastic dialogue, pre-teen peer pressure, high school heartbreak, adult disillusionment; to replicate all the parade noise broadcast on local radio, the train rumble that rattles the windows, the melody of Midwest life = to go to all the trouble of making it.

Over nine months, the Ross brothers floated through their home town with ghostly freedom and access. There is no voice over, no interviews, no overt story lines. But dramatic scenes coalesce from quiver between banality and beauty. A table of old ladies dotter on about the home shopping network, unfurling an unexpected vivaciousness. Characters are crafted in chitchat. A cop who cares enough about a convict to leave a note for the guy’s wife. And storylines pop like fireworks, that is, in spontaneous but recurring motifs. A teen who can’t bring herself to break up with the boyfriend who is always on the other end of a cell phone. A guy who can’t bring himself to stay honest, even with his own mother. A high school football team who’s best moments are in practice, in the locker room, at video game parties.

45365 captures the plain pathos of a single place like few other films ever do. It is amusing and informative, exciting and realistic, tragic and eternal. But as I said, this review is inadequate. To get at these emotions and ideas, you could live all your life in Sidney, Ohio, or you could see this film.

Watch the trailer here.

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