Sean and Cody are joined by literature student and documentary expert Ethan Weinstein for a bizarre journey into the heart of Southern womanhood with a side order of nuclear holocaust anxiety. In the classic 1986 documentary Sherman’s March, filmmaker Ross McElwee sets out to make a movie about the lingering effects of the Civil War scorched-earth military campaign that made the name William T. Sherman into fightin’ words south of the Mason-Dixon line. But he quickly gets sidetracked as a gaggle of white Southern women with various quirky hang-ups parade past his all-seeing camera. Environmental issues discussed include the real Sherman’s legacy of destruction, nuclear waste and ecological problems in the modern South, the anti-nuclear protests of the 1980s and cross-generational anxiety about atomic war and, by extension, climate change.
How did a movie about the historical Civil War morph into a reality show about the pitfalls of modern dating? Why is there so much toxic waste in the South? Where does traditional white Southern womanhood come from? Why did millions of people take to the streets in 1982 to protest nuclear weapons? What’s the “Red Tide” scenario? Why did Burt Reynolds’s career take a nose-dive? Where’s Ossbaw Island and who lives there? How do you get distribution for an independent documentary? What’s the appropriate thing to say to a woman who announces she’s not wearing underpants? Why are the hosts reviewing a documentary when they told you in Episode 12 they wouldn’t be reviewing any more documentaries? All these questions are ready to rip through Georgia and the Carolinas like Sherman’s army in this unusual episode of Green Screen.
Original trailer for Sherman’s March, for a recent film festival.
Additional Materials About This Episode
Here is Sherman’s March, the whole thing–from beginning to end. It is available only in 240p, unfortunately.
Ross McElwee Official Website:
Ethan Weinstein (Podcast Guest)
The Jonathan Richman Files, Vol. 1: At the Government Center, by Ethan Weinstein, at The Boston Hassle, Oct. 9, 2020:
“Returning Home With Ross McElwee,” by Ethan Weinstein, at Entropy Magazine, December 13, 2019:
Meetinghouse, a literary magazine at Dartmouth College, at which Ethan is the editor:
The Environmental History
What Ross McElwee set out to do, but did not do: a documentary (from PBS) about the historical Sherman’s March during the Civil War. This was produced in 2014 for the 150th anniversary of the event.
Stephanie Buck, “Fear of Nuclear Annihilation Scarred Children Growing Up in the Cold War, Studies Later Showed,” Timeline.com, August 29, 2017:
Caroline Rose Peyton, Radioactive Dixie: A History of Nuclear Power and Nuclear Waste in the American South, 1950-1990 (Dissertation, University of South Carolina, 2016):
Dr. Peyton’s website:
Annie Howard, “Lulu Wang Champions A24 Deal for ‘The Farewell’ Over Streaming Offer,” The Hollywood Reporter, December 27, 2019:
Lauren Zornosa, “Watchmen Star Regina King Makes History With Venice Film Festival Distinction,” Los Angeles Times, September 8, 2020:
VisionsDuReel interviews Ross McElwee in 2014 about his interesting career.
Ross McElwee is interviewed on Filmwax Radio in 2012 for his work on Photographic Memory, a film discussed by Ethan in this episode.
Next Movie Up: The Wicker Man (1973)