Ross McElwee DVD Collection
Documentarian Ross McElwee literally has one of the most distinctive voices in cinema. Where other first-person filmmakers tend toward the loud and chummy, McElwee speaks in a halting, drawling whisper, and adopts a detached tone that's not so much neutral as ecumenical. His films are informed by cinema verite, the avant-garde, and the personal touch of regional filmmaking, but they're mainly noteworthy for being cine-essays that don't take firm positions. McElwee likes to hear what people have to say for themselves, and he listens respectfully, with real curiosity.

There's a misperception that McElwee's movies are exclusively about McElwee himself, but the six films in The Ross McElwee DVD Collection are more about documentaries' inability to capture the full complexity of life, especially in the modern American South.

All too often, nonfiction filmmakers set out to document what they already believe to be true — that McDonald’s makes you fat (“Super Size Me”), that presidents make mistakes (“Fahrenheit 9/11”) and so on. Ross McElwee allows himself to be distracted from his goal, taking pleasure in getting sidetracked along the way. Fans of his meandering autobiographical films (a select but hardy group) should be delighted to get a more thorough look at his oeuvre in this collection, featuring “Sherman’s March”, “Bright Leaves” and four new-to-DVD treasures.

5 x DVD | NTSC 4:3 | 578 minutes
Language: English
Subtitles: none
Genre: Documentary, Biography, Romance, Short


54 minutes, color, 1978
One month in the life of Charleen Swansea, North Carolina poet, mother, beloved teacher, eccentric, romantic, and complex star of McElwee's Sherman's March.

40 minutes, color, 1984
The result of McElwee turning his camera on his family and their neighbors, the film is a humorous and poignant look at odd moments in a genteel Southern town.

-- Split Screen - Episode 42 "Ross McElwee 101"
-- Additional Scenes from "Sherman's March"
-- Patients
-- Additional Scenes from "Bright Leaves"
-- Whatever happened to some of the smokers from "Bright leaves"?
-- "Bright Leaves" Theatrical Trailer


Sherman's March
157 minutes, color, 1986
Chosen by the Library of Congress as a "historically significant American motion picture," Sherman's March, one of the first high grossing documentaries ever, is “an autobiographic quest for true romance: filmmaker Ross McElwee, camera in hand and eros on his mind after an old girlfriend deserts him, trains his lens with phallic resolve on every accessible women he meets along the original route of General Sherman's Civil War March".

-- Interview with Ross McElwee
-- Photo Gallery
-- Director Biography
-- General Sherman's personal letters & biography
-- Trailers


Time Indefinite
114 minutes, color, 1993
McElwee, Charleen Swansea, and several other memorable characters you met in Sherman's March invite you to pick up their story in Time Indefinite, McElwee's hilariously profound sequel to his much-beloved, critically acclaimed hit.


Six O'Clock News
103 minutes, color, 1997
Made after McElwee becomes a father and finds himself at home watching a lot more TV, he becomes obsessed with the nightly tales of calamity reported on by the local news.


Bright Leaves
107 minutes, color, 2004
McElwee family legend has it that the Hollywood melodrama Bright Leaf starring Gary Cooper as a 19th century tobacco grower, is based on McElwee's great-grandfather who created the famous "Bull Durham” brand. Using this legacy as a jumping off point, McElwee reaches back to his roots in this wry, witty rumination on American History, the tobacco business, and the myth of cinema.

-- Director's statement
-- Film notes by Godfrey Cheshire
-- About Michael Curtiz's "Bright leaf"
-- Biographies
-- Additional music by Paula Larke
-- Trailers

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