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THREE FILMS

Here is background information,  reviews, and WWW related links for three
McElwee documentaries:

Sherman's March (1986)

McElwee received a $9000 grant to make a documentary on the devastating effects of William T. Sherman's march through the South and its effect on the modern South. But before leaving to begin his shoot, his girlfriend ended their relationship in New York, and suddenly he no longer felt enthusiastic about the film.

He nevertheless went South, following Sherman's trail, but decided to document his personal quest for a girlfriend. McElwee says that the film is about "meditation on the possibility of romantic love in the South today." Along the way, he meets many quirky women: an aspiring actress who longs to meet Burt Reynolds; a survivalist; a linguist living like a hermit; and, a rock singer. He also visits Charleen Swansea, an old friend and his former high school teacher who gives him some advice. When these relationships do not pan out, he seeks out a former girlfriend.

In the end, he didn't find true love but his film was enormously popular. Sherman's March won the grand jury prize for documentaries at the 1987 Sundance Film Festival.

(Note: The full title is "Sherman's March: A Meditation on the Possibility of Romantic Love In the South During an Era of Nuclear Weapons Proliferation.")

Critics' Reaction:

  • "...he's a filmmaker-anthropologist with a rare appreciation for the eccentric details of our edgy civilization." New York Times

  • Sherman's March won the '87 Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.


    Time Indefinite (1993)

    The Fishin pier-a center image to Time IndefiniteIn a follow up film to Sherman's March, McElwee again chronicles his life, this time focusing on the cyclical pattern that revolves around life and death, and, the people who are important in his life. The film opens with McElwee announcing his engagement to filmmaker Marilyn Levine. He carries his camera with him to all the important places as he obtains his marriage license, the blood test, and even films Marilyn's gynecological exam. There are no sacred places where the camera is concerned. During his wedding, he allows a friend to film the ceremony after some degree of persuasion. Shortly after the marriage, Marilyn becomes pregnant but all these happy events suddenly take a turn. The direction of the film drastically changes when several people who are close to McElwee die. He is so traumatized that he actually puts down his camera for a number of months. He has an epiphany as he realizes that birth inevitably will lead to death. In a way, this journey becomes a religious experience for him as he weaves in biblical references throughout. Finally, his son Adrian is born and he seems to come to terms with the events that have taken place in his life.

    Critics' Reaction:

  • Here's a review of "Time Indefinite" by Gil Lahav

  • The Web site Film.com reviews current movies and offers an archive section complete with new and old film reviews including one of "Time Indefinite" (http://www.film.com/filma/reviews/quickrev.idc?REV=1017)

  • "Time Indefinite conveys a sensuous appreciation of the physical world that is so acute that the environment is almost as important as the people." New York Times

  • "Ross McElwee is Don Quixote with a camera, an impractical visionary ever on a quest." Washington Post

  • "There's an air of emotional intimacy in McElwee's films, and a note of constant surprise. Things seem to happen, and people spill forth great truths--as if a special filmmaker's angel had sprinkled fairy dust on this shlumpy, bearded, self-effacing guy." San Francisco Chronicle

    Lucille and Melvin Stafford celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary

    Something To Do WIth the Wall  (1991)

    In this work, McElwee points the camera in a new direction. He teams up with his wife, fellow documentarian Marilyn Levine, to make a film on everyday life in Berlin. It takes place before and after the Wall came down. They went to Berlin on the 25th anniversary of the Wall in 1986. The two stake Beardless in Berlin while shooting Something...out Checkpoint Charlie where they interview and document life in Berlin. Some of the more memorable moments captured include a boy painting graffiti on the Wall with blood and another person protesting its existence with a pickax. The second part of the film entitled The Liberation takes place after the Wall has been destroyed. They venture into the neighborhood near Checkpoint Charlie when East Germans were flooding into West Germany. They capture one woman at dinner who describes her joy in finally being reunited with her cousin after twenty-five years.. McElwee and Levine say they were interested in capturing the people who lived through this experience of forced separation.


    For more on these films and others by McElwee, there are several film magazines interviews and critiques which appear elsewhere on this Web site.


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