UNDERGROUND USA: INDIE CINEMA OF THE 80s - Sherman's March (w/ Ross McElwee in person!)

aka Sherman’s March: A Meditation on the Possibility of Romantic Love In the South During an Era of Nuclear Weapons Proliferation

Freshly heartbroken, Ross McElwee set out to make a film about the South—namely the fallout of General Sherman’s famed march to the sea during the Civil War—but, as the film’s full title indicates, it’s much more than a documentary about the scorched earth Sherman left in his wake. Instead, McElwee crafted an ideal of cinéma vérite, a simultaneously romantic and self-effacing tour of the South (his home) and its women. An artist of everyday life, McElwee lingers on the peculiarities of the prosaic, and teases out the normalcy of the peculiar, narrating his travels with an improvisational tone, deftly transforming the male gaze into something humble and questioning, as rife with self-criticism as it it with alluring images of women. It’s intimate, but also fraught with tension introduced by filmmaking itself; his sister advises him to use his camera to meet people—”you have an instant rapport with people because you have a camera”—and he does, but it’s a complicated rapport; his camera is both a shield and an extension of his heart, his filming a form of flattery, and also distancing—as noted by McElwee’s firecracker of a former teacher, Charleen, who memorably scolds him, “turn off the camera Ross, this isn’t art, it’s life!”

Dir. Ross McElwee, 1985, 16mm, 157 min.