This thoughtful, quirky documentarian became famous through a film which took five years to make, and went through many personality changes before emerging in 1986 as "Sherman's March". McElwee was bo...
Made first film, short "20,000,000 Missing Persons"
Made first feature, "Space Coast"
Helmed the documentry "Something to Do with the Wall" about the Berlin Wall
Directed and starred in "Time Indefinite" a continuation of his film "Sherman's March"
Became teacher-in-residence at Harvard
Helmed "Six O'Clock News" a documentary about a man who carries a film camera around most of the time and films the events of his life
Wrote and directed the documentry "Bright Leaves"; received an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Documentary
Began filming "Sherman's March" a documentary about the lingering effects of General Sherman's march of destruction through the South during the Civil War (released 1986)
This thoughtful, quirky documentarian became famous through a film which took five years to make, and went through many personality changes before emerging in 1986 as "Sherman's March". McElwee was born and raised in the deep South, then spent several years in France (as a wedding photographer's assistant), Iran and India. Returning to North Carolina, he worked as a TV cameraman for local stations. McElwee first began making his own films while at MIT in the mid-1970s; early efforts included shorts such as "68 Albany Street" (1976), about the evolution of a local lab, "Charleen" (1978), the bittersweet tale of a local schoolteacher, the longer "Space Coast" (1979), the bizarre recounting of three Cape Canaveral families, "Resident Exile" (1981), about an Iranian prisoner, and the autobiographical "Backyard" 1982).
McElwee began filming "Sherman's March" in 1981 as a straightforward travelogue of the General's route through the South, but the project became more personal when the director was dumped by his girlfriend and began interviewing old (and potential) girlfriends along the way, ruminating on the past and present complexes of Southern mentality. The film--not released until 1986--was a surprise hit, rocketing McElwee to fame as a cinema verite filmmaker. He followed up with "Something to Do with the Wall" (1991), a documentary about the Berlin Wall, and another autobiographical film, "Time Indefinite" (1993).