McElwee family legend has it that the Hollywood melodrama "Bright Leaf" starring Gary Cooper as a 19th century tobacco grower, is based on filmmaker Ross McElwee's great-grandfather, who created the Bull Durham brand. Using this legacy as a jumping off point, McElwee reaches back to his roots in this wry, witty rumination on American History, the tobacco business, and the myth of cinema.
"Many try to imitate but none can duplicate the documentary poetry of Ross McElwee, whose thoughtful, personal projects have always been grounded in autobiography. Bright Leaves is McElwee at his simultaneous deepest and lightest, digging at his family's roots on North Carolina's tobacco industry, and harvesting a rich (and sometimes richly funny) film about personal choices , about generational legacy- and also (always his signature) about his love of movies and his devotion to the craft of making them, a commitment he honors with the care he shows each person who faces his camera lens. This is mature, reverberating work from a homegrown, bighearted, quintessentially American documentarian" (Entertainment Weekly).
"An American humorist in a tradition from Mark Twain through Garrison Keillor" -New York Times
"A fascinating diary-documentary!" -Time Magazine
"By the end of this reflective, wise, often hilarious movie, you feel as though he has slapped a huge chunk of raw, palpitating life onto the screen. Bright Leaves leaves you feeling invigorated by the boundless curiosity, humor and high spirits of its creator." -Stephen Holden, The New York Times