“Sherman’s March” (1986) dir. Ross McElwee

One of the warmest and funniest documentaries I’ve ever seen is Ross McElwee’s  “Sherman’s March.”  McElwee, a North Carolina native, originally planned on making a documentary on General William Tecumseh Sherman’s march through Georgia and the Carolinas during the Civil War.  However, right before filming, McElwee broke up with his girlfriend.  Unable to focus on his original subject matter, he started documenting his attempts to find a new girlfriend, featuring various women he’s interested in, only to face disappointment most of the time.

Despite the subject matter, this is not a self-pity fest or a lecherous / misogynistic journey through multiple hook-ups.  McElwee genuinely loves women, thinks the world of them, and the loving way he captures various women who strike his fancy is touching.  That’s not to say that some of the women he encounters aren’t … well …  a little “off,” as you can see in the clip above.

“Sherman’s March” is a long film (over 2.5 hours), but it’s not dull at all.  It’s a real charmer.  It has won numerous awards over the years, including being selected by the Library of Congress in 2000 for preservation in the National Film Registry.  Their opinion was that it was a “hilarious one-of-a-kind romantic exploration of the South.”  I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

And there was a happy ending for McElwee in real life.  Not only did he get married and become a father (the subject of his documentary “Time Indefinite”), he’s also a film professor at Harvard as well as the creator of several other terrific documentaries.

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