United States, 60 min
Charleen Swansea, a teacher of poetry workshops, is a charismatic, fast-speaking character. Fleeing from her father, she entertained friendly relations with Ezra Pound when he was detained in a Washington, DC mental institution. McElwee, by way of his friend Charleen, was able to outline an accurate portrait of his hometown Charlotte, North Carolina and its inhabitants.
A thesis film for the MIT Graduate Program, Charleen is an all-accomplished expression of the core of the cinema of Ross McElwee. To realize his first medium-length documentary, the film director focusses on a subject he is well familiar with and will follow over the years. Charleen Swansea, who teaches poetry in workshops for high school students, is a charismatic, fast-speaking, typically Southern character. Fleeing from her father and looking for a new one, she came in contact with outstanding poets such as E.E. Cummings. She also had fertile friendly relations with Ezra Pound when he was detained in a Washington psychiatric ward. By way of Charleen’s poetry workshops, McElwee manages to present a convincing portrait of Charlotte, the town in North Carolina where he was born and bred, as well as to highlight the complexities of an extraordinary woman. With Charleen McElwee found the measure and the voice that helped him achieve his later, major works.
Giona A. Nazzaro