In my experience with creative non-fiction I’ve come across many techniques for delivery of information. What I think Ross McElwee has used is a sort of braided essay, albeit with some stray threads (ahem, Burt Reynolds). In Sherman’s March we originally start with Civil War Sherman and his rampage to the sea, but then we get slightly distracted when Ross is broken up with by his girlfriend for another man. It is then that McElwee begins his own sort of march through past relationships, new relationships, and possibly what’s wrong with his own inability to couple happily. We also gain such interiority from McElwee that is not usually seen in a normal documentary, he is unafraid to turn the camera on himself and be intimate with his audience, which I think is just another characteristic of creative non-fiction. Just on a side note, it seems so funny that McElwee builds himself on a man that is solely known for the destruction of his home region. Although, McElwee acknowledges that Sherman liked the South regardless, even had friends in Charlotte–so he does provide a certain complexity.
Ross, by allowing himself the freedom to integrate his own life with Sherman’s route is so interesting, as if his own search for intimacy has won out over a passion project. I think as we continue on in the movie, Ross starts to identify himself with the real Sherman, not the glossy one history provides. Sherman was a failure before his destruction of the South, he failed a lot, in many different arenas. Ross might look at his failed movie career, and inability to find love as failures. Similarly, it is through his own Sherman’s March that he finds his own sort of redemption, even though the movie does not provide his own love life with a rebirth, his career and prospects have certainly brightened through the documentary and its successes (legitimacy from parents gained, financially etc.).
I think that if someone see’s just the title Sherman’s March it can be dismissed as another civil war documentary. I know I did. These false expectations are sort of indulged though, it is about historically Sherman’s March, but as I said, it’s also about McElwee’s his own march as well. McElwee is also from the south and follows his path, so I feel like the title is earned in a way. Nevertheless, at first glance, and nothing more, there exists an expectation of a dry documentary, and as an audience I thought it was something greater than that, but to someone else it could be false representation with false expectations.Nobody really wanted or expected those weirdly sexual cellulite exercises in the beginning, either, but alas.