Watch Bright Leaves
- 1 hr 47 min
Bright Leaves is a 2003 documentary film that tells the story of the tobacco industry in North Carolina through the perspective of the film's director, Ross McElwee. McElwee is a native North Carolinian who grew up surrounded by the tobacco industry and its impact on his life and community. The film uses McElwee's personal story as a starting point to explore the larger history of tobacco in North Carolina, and the broader cultural significance of the industry. Throughout the film, McElwee uses archival footage, family photographs, and interviews with tobacco farmers, industry executives, and anti-smoking activists to tell a rich and nuanced story of the rise and fall of tobacco in North Carolina.
One of the key themes of the film is the impact of tobacco on McElwee's own family. His great-grandfather was J.W. McElwee, a prominent tobacco farmer in the early 20th century. The family fortune was built on tobacco, but the industry also brought tragedy - J.W. McElwee died of lung cancer at a young age, and several other family members were also affected by smoking-related illnesses.
The film delves into the complicated legacy of tobacco in North Carolina, examining the links between the industry and the state's identity and culture. For many years, tobacco was a key part of North Carolina's economy, and was celebrated as a symbol of the state's heritage and traditions. But as the health risks of smoking became more widely known, tobacco came under increasing scrutiny and criticism from public health advocates and the government.
The film also explores the impact of tobacco on the people who worked in the industry, particularly the farmers who grew the tobacco. McElwee visits several tobacco farms and interviews farmers who have struggled to make a living as the demand for tobacco has declined in recent years. Many farmers feel a deep connection to the land and to the tobacco industry, and are saddened by its decline.
Despite the serious subject matter, Bright Leaves is also a deeply personal and at times humorous film. McElwee's wry, self-deprecating narration and offbeat sense of humor add a lightness to the film, even as he grapples with the weighty themes and emotions that come with exploring his family's history and the legacy of tobacco in North Carolina.
Overall, Bright Leaves is a thoughtful and engaging documentary that provides a rich and nuanced portrait of the tobacco industry and its impact on North Carolina. It is a poignant reminder of the complex ways in which our personal and cultural histories intersect, and of the ongoing struggles faced by many communities whose livelihoods are tied to industries that have fallen out of favor in the modern world.
Bright Leaves is a 2003 documentary with a runtime of 1 hour and 47 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.1 and a MetaScore of 79.