United States, 110 min
With Bright Leaves, Ross McElwee tackles the tradition of classic Hollywood cinema through the lens of his family history. He puts together the well-known primacy of the State of North Carolina in tobacco growing and the pleasure of filming – “making films is like smoking a cigarette for me”, he comments sardonically. This way, he is able to re-evoke his great-grandparents’ connections with the tobacco industry. Going back to forgotten relatives allows him to find a story about the Bull Durham tobacco formula that was stolen from his great-grandfather by James “Buck” Duke. Apparently, the same story is at the core of the Michael Curtiz melodrama Bright Leaf, starring Gary Cooper and Lauren Bacall, as Ross’s cousin John McElwee, a lawyer and a period film collector, points out for him. Collective history and family history intertwine with the story of tobacco and smoke, in which the State of North Carolina plays a role that cannot be overlooked.
Giona A. Nazzaro