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 ...
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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.
Filmmaker Ross McElwee (Sherman's March, Bright Leaves) finds himself in frequent conflict with his son, a young adult who seems addicted to and distracted by the virtual worlds of the ... See full summary »
Forty year old documentary filmmaker Ross McElwee has a penchant for filming everything around him. Following the announcement of his impending marriage to his film-making partner Marilyn ... See full summary »
In 1986, Ross McElwee and Marilyn Levine were making a film about the 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall, when the imposing structure was still very much intact as the world's most visible symbol of hardline Communism.
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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