The Ross McElwee DVD Collection [Five Disc Collector's Edition] [DVD]

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Special Features

  • Two interviews with Ross McElwee
  • Outtakes with commentary
  • Bright Leaves follow-ups
  • Music tracks
  • Photo gallery
  • Film notes and more!


Sherman's March
A disarmingly engaging personal documentary, Sherman's March is a portrait of a man in personal crisis that is also an often hilarious ode to Southern women. Filmmaker Ross McElwee states in the film's opening shots that, as a native Southerner, he had always been fascinated with the psychological effect that Union General William Tecumseh Sherman has had on the region. To that end, he intended to make a film that would retrace the route of the general's famous march that brought so much devastation to the Confederacy, talking with contemporary Southerners about the Civil War. But just before he leaves his New York apartment to begin the shoot, McElwee learns that his girlfriend has left him, and his journey turns into one of self-examination through the women he encounters. Some are old friends -- the most memorable being Charleen Swansea, a teacher determined to find Ross a good woman -- and some are new acquaintances, including an aspiring actress and a survivalist. McElwee occasionally turns the camera on himself for late-night musings over the day's events. Sherman's March was a sleeper hit when it was released, and its reputation has grown with strong word of mouth. McElwee's next film Time Indefinite was also a personal story, about his own family, though with less of the ingratiating humor of Sherman's March. ~ Tom Wiener, Rovi

This is a documentary which takes a stab at a political statement with a personal undercurrent. Ross McElwee watches his small Southern town - family, friends, neighbors - through the eye of his camera and makes a photographic record of the interdependencies and segregations which have evolved from blacks and whites living together in the modern South. ~ Tana Hobart, Rovi

Time Indefinite
The saga of Ross McElwee, filmmaker, continues with this almost-sequel to Sherman's March. The expat Southerner has finally managed to find a kindred soul to marry (another filmmaker, Marilyn Levene) and things seem to be going swimmingly. Then the couple are hit with a rapid-fire series of family tragedies that send McElwee into deep contemplation. Time Indefinite is a bittersweet journey, however, full of the self-deprecating humor and observational skill that made Sherman's March such a treat. The title is a phrase from the Bible, read aloud as part of a diatribe by a Jehovah's Witness at the door, which strikes Ross as particularly lovely. The third film of this (so far) trilogy is Six O'Clock News. ~ John Voorhees, Rovi

Bright Leaves
Film diarist Ross McElwee (Sherman's March) offers another personal examination of Southern history and life with Bright Leaves, a documentary tracing his own connection to North Carolina and its tobacco industry. McElwee is drawn to the subject after meeting his second cousin John, a film memorabilia collector, who shows McElwee an old Warner Bros. film from 1950, Bright Leaf, in which Gary Cooper stars (alongside Patricia Neal and Lauren Bacall) as a tobacco magnate who builds himself up from nothing only to lose everything to a rich, powerful, and ruthless Southern gentleman. The film reminds McElwee of the stories his father used to tell about his great grandfather, who built up a fortune in the tobacco business, but spent years, and tens of thousands of dollars, suing the Duke family (the most powerful tobacco growers in American history, and founders of Duke University) for stealing his famous "Durham Bull" brand. The battle ruined him and left the family bankrupt. McElwee decides to investigate the origins of the film, which leads him to explore his own connection to the tobacco industry. Even though his family is no longer in the business, McElwee feels guilty about his family's "contribution to global tobacco addiction." McElwee interviews cancer patients, including former patients of his late father, a surgeon. He also interviews several friends who smoke or who have ties to the tobacco industry. In focusing on Bright Leaf, he finds himself interviewing film historian Vlada Petric and actress Neal. All of this is intertwined with a very personal family history involving his relationship with his father, his son, and the whole issue of smoking. ~ Josh Ralske, Rovi

Six O'Clock News
Ross McElwee made the much-acclaimed autobiographical documentary Sherman's March. While watching television news reports of a hurricane's progress in South Carolina, he began to wonder how things were going for a friend of his, who lived in the path of the storm. His investigations led to the production of Six O'Clock News, in which he interrogates victims of natural disasters who have been made briefly famous by television news reports. Originally aired on PBS' "Frontline," in the documentary he interviews his South Carolina friend, who was recovering nicely, a couple whose trailer home was destroyed by a tornado, and an immigrant worker whose rescue after an L.A. earthquake was widely aired. In addition, he learns how to remove spoiled food from refrigerators that have been out of power for many days as a result of natural disasters. ~ Clarke Fountain, Rovi

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