Sherman’s March

It feels like any documentary student is not allowed to receive their degree until they see Ross McElwee’s Sherman’s March. I feel like I saw so many clips in my film classes that I had seen all of it one way or another, but I actually sat down and watched it again straight through.  I thought that the film was a primitive form of the book (and movie) High Fidelity.  McElwee wound up in yet another failed relationship, and took a self reflexive trip back home to the South to find some answers.  It has that old documentary feel that tells my MTV-2 generation mind that it could stand to leave about 45 minutes more on the cutting room floor.  Go ahead, Old School.  Take your shots.

This film, however, does give a very good insight into how one can approach their place in a film.  McElwee began this film as a historical documentary, following Sherman’s march across the South.  Once his story changed, so too did his approach (which must have thrilled his funders).  As I look into my place in the busing documentary, I must also consider my place in the film.

I was born in 1982,  almost a decade after the decisions to go ahead with the busing plan.  I never saw the protests, the stories on the news, and I never saw the way Southie was before busing.  I did, however, see Southie become a poor neighborhood that was constantly conflicted internally around issues of race, class, gender, and politics.  I saw drugs tear apart families, friends, and eventually the community.

So where do I stand in this?  I am still facing this issue as to whether or not I should inject myself into this story, and if so, how do I?  Narration?  On camera “confessionals?”  I like McElwee’s style in that he introduces a topic, let’s the scene play out, then he gives his two cents at the end, followed by a new scene.  I am seriously considering this approach, but I’m still not sure where my place in this film is.

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