Ross McElwee, 35mm film, 107 mins. (2003)
North Carolina produces more tobacco than any other state in America. Ross McElwee’s film describes a journey taken across the social, economic, and psychological tobacco terrain of North Carolina by a native Carolinian whose great-grandfather created the famous brand of tobacco known as Bull Durham.
Bright Leaves is a subjective, autobiographical meditation on the allure of cigarettes and their troubling legacy for the state of North Carolina.
It’s about loss and preservation, addiction and denial. And it is about filmmaking — home movie, documentary, and fiction filmmaking — as the filmmaker fences with the legacy of an obscure Hollywood melodrama that is purportedly based on his great-grandfather’s life.
Bright Leaves explores the notion of legacy — what one generation passes down to the next — and how this can be a particularly complicated topic when the legacy under discussion is a Southern one and is tied to tobacco.
Distributed by First Run Features, New York.