There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Before there was reality TV, there was Ross McElwee. Since the early 1980s, the acclaimed documentarian has turned his camera on himself and his family members in the service of bittersweet, personal-essay docs like Sherman’s March and Time Indefinite. His latest, Photographic Memory, is a meditation on technology, self-documentation, and fatherhood. The film finds McElwee exploring the growing rift between himself and his 21-year-old son Adrian, who’s content to spend his days making Jackass-style viral videos of himself and his friends skiing. In an attempt to better understand his son’s aimlessness, McElwee returns to Brittany, France—where he spent some directionless time of his own in his early twenties—to track down some of the acquaintances who set him on the proper path to adulthood. Photographic Memory has notes of curmudgeonliness (there’s more than one voiceover soliloquy about those kids and their darned text messages) but, overall, it’s a thoughtful and poignant measuring of a generation gap. In one of its most affecting scenes, McElwee turns the camera on his own face, Real World-style, and saddened by what he sees in the viewfinder sums it all up with humor and pathos: “When did I get to be so old?”