“Ross McElwee‘s ‘Sherman’s March’ forever altered my writing life. By being as self-reflexive as it is, a heat-seeking missile destroying whatever it touches, the film becomes a thoroughgoing exploration of the interconnections between desire, filmmaking, nuclear weaponry and war, rather than being about only General Sherman….
“… The best nonfiction jumps the tracks, using its ‘subject’ as a Trojan horse to get at richer material than the writer originally intended. McElwee’s ‘Bright Leaves’ pretends to be about his conflicted relation to his family’s tobacco farm, whereas it’s really about the way in which we all will do anything — make a movie, smoke cigarettes, collect film stills, build a birdhouse, hold a lifelong torch for someone, find religion — to try to get beyond ourselves.”
– From “How Literature Saved My Life” by David Shields (2013)
Shields, whose latest has drawn reviews both appreciative and not so, may be an even bigger fan of the Charlotte-born McElwee than I am. (“A heat-seeking missile destroying whatever it touches”? — can’t top that.)