The Willowdale pool. Mimosa basketball. Street hockey and lots of snakes. For Justin Robinson, the time he spent growing up in Luling was full of childhood wonder.
That near decade of his life is chronicled in My Brother Jordan, the documentary Justin created and released earlier this year.
“There was the Willowdale Community Country Club pool in the summer and that’s where we fell in love with the water … instead of thunder delays or rain delays there were snake delays when one would get through the fence,” Justin said laughing. “And then there was just a lot of time riding bikes and just the freedom of playing street hockey with all the neighborhood kids. It was very charming … very cinematic.”
Justin dedicated the past eight years of his life to creating a film tribute to his older brother Jordan, who died from an aggressive form of cancer 12 years ago. With the help of 102 interviews and over 300 home videotapes, My Brother Jordan portrays the bond of brotherhood between Jordan and Justin.
“The science of us was just magic,” Justin said of he and Jordan’s relationship.
Justin is the youngest of four brothers. His father Rev. Jimmy Robinson pastored West St. Charles Baptist Church in the 1990s, which brought the Robinson family to St. Charles Parish for a little over eight years. A key component of the documentary is the brothers’ shared passion for basketball, which started in St. Charles Parish.
“Basketball was our love language and really the total summation of our brotherhood,” Justin said. “The first basketball we ever played was wearing a Mimosa rec league jersey.”
Justin’s love of filmmaking started at a young age, when his family purchased a camcorder. The documentary is filled with clips of Justin, Jordan and their friends and family.
“It was definitely an amazing gift to have all the footage,” Justin said. “We weren’t the type of family that had fancy things. We didn’t have a lot of money, so for us to have that camera … we took full advantage of it.”
My Brother Jordan was released on Aug. 19. The entire film is self-produced and self-financed.
“I wanted to take all these little golden nuggets of our childhood … these little moments I was lucky enough to have … these time capsules,” Justin said of starting the film eight years ago. “Initially I just had a mental rush of ‘It’s time to do it. It’s already been four years since he died.’ I didn’t want to have the color fade at all, so I wanted to quickly go and scavenge and get all the memories from our friends and family before anyone else died.”
The drive to create the film came from his intense bond with Jordan.
“Death does a lot of different things to different people,” Justin said. “What I saw it do to a lot of people is silence them in a way I didn’t want done to myself. I made the documentary for me with the hope other people would see it.”
Justin said the finished product captured exactly what he intended.
“There was no lie about his life – he was as good as I remembered,” he said of Jordan. “He was the best one of us by far.”
With the film finished in January of this year, Justin said his conversations with some of his film-making colleagues about the best way to distribute the film fell to the side when the COVID pandemic ramped up in the spring.
“When I started to make it, I had no idea what to do with it,” he said. “I’m not a businessman. I’m a filmmaker. My goal was not to make money. I wanted Jordan to be accessible as possible. I just wanted you to see his face and click play.”
Justin decided to release the documentary onto his unmonetized YouTube account.
“I honestly really didn’t have any expectations,” he said. “My intentions were pure and my heart was pure. When you make a film … once you put it out, it’s not yours anymore. I thought the people who wanted to see it would see it.”
After two weeks the documentary had been viewed 20,000 times.
“I thought, ‘Well that’s probably everyone I’ve ever known in my life,’” Justin said. “But it hit 12 million views last night. Now it has a mind of its own. I don’t know the life span it’ll have on the Internet.”
And while he will undoubtedly create other films in the future, Justin is currently working on a different kind of project.
“I’m working on a book about Jordan’s life,” Justin said. “I’m writing the Luling chapters now.”