Directors Bill Ross and Turner Ross are small-town siblings who returned for nine months to their hometown of Sidney, Ohio—zip code 45365—with a camera and a palpable passion to capture the essence of everyday rural lives. Eschewing talking-head interviews or any type of narration whatsoever, the filmmakers create a composite sketch of Sidney, allowing their camera to rove randomly like an omnipotent eye from the Shelby County fair to the local radio station, from a cop on patrol (who at one point comes to the aid of an unhappy cable customer!) to a judge campaigning door-to-door for reelection. With its beautifully framed images set to an evocative score, consisting of country strings and marching band anthems, the film becomes nearly hypnotic. Indeed, 45365, which won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the 2009 SXSW Film Festival, is not a quirky doc, but an exhaustively detailed, entrancing journey, crafted with love for everything from raindrops on a windshield to a cheesy Elvis impersonator.
Refreshingly, the brothers never pass judgment on these sometimes sweet and sometimes substance-addicted characters, employing smart editing that doesn’t lead the viewer to conclusions, but simply presents as a spy or an eavesdropper would. By their getting out of the way and letting reality play out in front of the lens, wonderful bits of dialogue emerge. Two dudes at the radio station argue whether a song is about an accordion or a dildo. An older gent wants to exterminate some annoying bats—which are, after all, really just “a mouse with wings.” And, by the end, we’re reminded that all the world truly is a stage—its events most riveting sans irony.