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Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Canada

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Bright Leaves

Chris Campbell

Ross McElwee shooting Bright Leaves
The reality is slipping away.

Ross McElwee is a very personal filmmaker. The first film that I saw by him, Sherman's March (just out on DVD), was, on the surface, about the Civil War, but it's really about McElwee and his relationship with women. He makes documentary films that are about him (but isn't everything that we make and do really about us?) and in the process we find out a lot about ourselves and the people, places and ideas that he comes into contact with. His latest film is Bright Leaves, where he goes home to North Carolina to find out more about his family, tobacco, his friends and a Hollywood film that could be a sort of "secret home movie". He works in a gentle, subtle style that could rub people the wrong way. Not me as I love it and settled in to the groove of the film right away. While his films are personal, they are also about filmmaking and contain many profound insights. The connection and disconnection that occurs when you film things hit home with me. In looking at footage of his father he thinks that "the reality is slipping away" and while the images remain, what about the memories. Does film preserve or destroy our memories. I became so disturbed by this that I actually didn't videotape or photograph a lot of my family for almost a year. I wanted to be there and participate and not document what was happening. McElwee shoots and records most of the sound himself (with some assistance this time from his son) and his son Adrian also took the photo that is beside this entry. I really liked this film and I'm glad that I saw it.