North Carolina produces more tobacco than any other state in America. Bright Leaves describes a journey taken across the social, economic, and psychological tobacco terrain of North ... See full summary »
Filmmaker Jonathan Caouette's documentary on growing up with his schizophrenic mother -- a mixture of snapshots, Super-8, answering machine messages, video diaries, early short films, and more -- culled from 19 years of his life.
Ross McElwee sets out to make a documentary about the lingering effects of General Sherman's march of destruction through the South during the Civil War, but is continually sidetracked by ... See full summary »
Ross McElwee Jr.
In 2007 Mobile, Alabama, Mardi Gras is celebrated... and complicated. Following a cast of characters, parades, and parties across an enduring color line, we see that beneath the surface of pageantry lies something else altogether.
This documentary by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky details the murder trial of Delbert Ward. Delbert was a member of a family of four elderly brothers, working as semi-literate farmers ... See full summary »
North Carolina produces more tobacco than any other state in America. Bright Leaves describes a journey taken across the social, economic, and psychological tobacco terrain of North Carolina by a native Carolinian, Ross McElwee, whose great-grandfather created the famous brand of tobacco known as Bull Durham. The comedic chronicle is a subjective, autobiographical meditation on the allure of cigarettes and their troubling legacy for the state of North Carolina. It's also a film about family history, addiction, denial, and filmmaking--as McElwee, noted director of Sherman's March, grapples with the legacy of an obscure Hollywood melodrama that is purportedly based on this curious man that was his great-grandfather. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
[on being asked about the tobacco industry]
It brings a lotta jobs and a lotta revenue, but... it has its health hazards and... everybody's gonna die of something, so...
May as well be tobacco?
Might as well die of something that's gonna help out the... the... *what's* the word? Here, I'm thinkin'...
*There* ya go. There ya go. Havin' a tough mornin'...
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While it is still a personal documentary from McElwee, the master of the form, "Bright Leaves" is a film that speaks far beyond the personal. As McElwee films across the south, it seems everyone-- smoker or nonsmoker-- has a relationship with tobacco. The most amazing thing about the film is the filmmaker's even handedness and understanding for the pull that cigarette smoking has on his subjects, even though the filmmaker himself has never had a tobacco habit to peak of. Given Michael Moore's work and other popular documentaries of the day, the expectation is that "Bright Leaves" would have a stern and condemning view of the tobacco industry. On the contrary, he gives humorous insight on the age-old habit. McElwee's writing, as found in his narration, is incredibly poetic as it rolls along the blue hills of North Carolina. Even weeks later, I think of that last sequence of shots, the tanker of tobacco heading off to far lands, the shots of his son, and understand why I myself, like so many, have this attraction to smoking, or what McElwee calls the urge to give pause to time, and likens to his own filmmaking and photography.
The most how genius moment features Vlada Petric, and McElwee's long standing side character, Charlene, is still a gift. The film really does stick with you for a long, long time, and deserves lots of exposure and great distribution.
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