Bright Leaves had its world premiere at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival, where it was the only American film invited to be in Directors' Fortnight. It was enthusiastically received and was immediately picked up for French theatrical distribution. Invitations to the 2003 New York Film Festival and theToronto Film Festival followed Cannes, and these two festivals gave a strong platform from which to launch the North American distribution, which was handled by First Run Features of New York. For the last year, I have been traveling with the film as it has played in various US cities, and this has been a very gratifying experience. Despite the very specific geographical focus of the film — nearly all of it was shot in North Carolina — it seems that audiences both here and in Europe have responded to the more universal themes contained in the film — the themes of family and legacy, addiction and denial, and passion for movies — Hollywood movies, home movies and documentaries.
In addition to teaching and traveling with my film over the last year, I have been trying to carve out the time to prepare materials for the release of the DVD set of six of my films — Backyard, Charleen, Sherman's March, Time Indefinite, Six O'Clock News and Bright Leaves — this November. I intend to finish editing a few short films I shot long ago before embarking on my next autobiographical feature.
— Ross McElwee, August 2005