IMDb > Bright Leaves (2003)
Bright Leaves
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Bright Leaves (2003) More at IMDbPro »

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Bright Leaves -- Open-ended Trailer from First Run Features


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Ross McElwee (writer)
View company contact information for Bright Leaves on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
28 April 2004 (France) See more »
North Carolina produces more tobacco than any other state in America. Bright Leaves describes a journey taken across the social... See more » | Add synopsis »
1 win & 5 nominations See more »
User Reviews:
Great Fun See more (14 total) »


Allan Gurganus ... Himself
Paula Larke ... Herself
Marilyn Levine ... Herself
Emily Madison ... Herself

Adrian McElwee ... Himself
Ross McElwee ... Himself
Tom McElwee ... Himself

Patricia Neal ... Herself
Vlada Petric ... Himself
Charleen Swansea ... Herself

Directed by
Ross McElwee 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
Ross McElwee  writer

Produced by
Ross McElwee .... producer
Linda Morgenstern .... associate producer
Cinematography by
Ross McElwee 
Film Editing by
Ross McElwee 
Mark Meatto  (as Mark Meato)
Production Management
Stan Sztaba .... post-production supervisor
Sound Department
Rick Beck .... sound
Camera and Electrical Department
Adrian McElwee .... additional camera operator
Editorial Department
Brad Fuller .... post-production consultant
Stan Sztaba .... negative matcher
Other crew
Pacho Velez .... production assistant
Renata Jackson .... thanks

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
107 min

Did You Know?

Miss Tobacco:[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...
Ross McElwee:May as well be tobacco?
Miss Tobacco:Might as well die of something that's gonna help out the... the... *what's* the word? Here, I'm thinkin'...
Ross McElwee:Economy?
Miss Tobacco:[beams] *There* ya go. There ya go. Havin' a tough mornin'...
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8 out of 11 people found the following review useful.
Great Fun, 14 October 2003
Author: Mengedegna from Brooklyn, NY

Seen at NYFF. Ross McElwee has perfected a sui generis form of personal-confession, free-associating, voiced-over "documentary" (if that's the word) that isn't quite like anything else. (Comparisons will doubtless be made with Michael Moore, but the difference is obvious: Moore hammers his points home, while McElwee tries to pretend that he doesn't have any to make.) Five years, he tells us, in the making, the film mines his native North Carolina for musings on tabacco, its ravages, its sweet consolations, and the fact that his family lost its fortunes to the Duke clan and then made back a more modest one by treating the victims of the industry that that clan had perfected. Oh, and that he had a father and has a son he whom he loved and loves beyond all telling. And that there was a Michael Curtiz/Gary Cooper movie, "Bright Leaf", that may or may not be about his family, but that we all ought to go check out anyway, if only to see Cooper interact on screen with his then lover Patricia Neal, who turns up in the now-doughty flesh the better to frustrate McElwee in his attempts to validate his romantic notions, another theme. North Carolina is the main character here, or rather McElwee's complex relationship with it and feelings about it and about his own now-Yankeeized family. Charm and yarns, poignant reflections on time lost and time regained and how the home movies he and his family seem to have made with Friedmanesque compulsion may or may not interact with these, some pure and wonderful comedy on film itself, all come together in a rich stew.

If you expect movies to be "about" anything in particular, this film will doubtless leave you scratching your head in frustration and bafflement. If you can accept a movie that is a beautifully paced (quick/elegiac/quick) romp by a quirky mind with one of the sharpest eyes around, you'll have a great time. The festival audience (many of whom, unlike me, seemed to know what to expect) certainly did.

PS: In the Q&A, McElwee pointed out the obvious: that this film was actually made on film, not from digitized pixels. He wryly dismissed those who applauded this affirmation as flacks for Kodak, but the reason for the applause is real and obvious. What a joy it is once again to actually see detail in an image, to see faces in full and changing expression instead of in soupy facsimile. And to see real colors (and what an eye for color McElwee has) in all their changing subtlety, instead of vague planes of yellow or puce.

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