Finally got around to viewing Andrew Douglas’s 2003 documentary about The South, inspired by Jim White’s album Wrong-Eyed Jesus!. White acts as a tour-guide of sorts, driving around small town in a borrowed and beat-up Chevy Impala, offering up insightful and occasionally oddball philosophies on the nature of this unique region.
White’s songs are definite products of the south, woven with its tales of religion, fanaticism, violence, drinking and isolation. In the same way, Searching For The Wrong-Eyed Jesus embraces and reinforces the divided nature and mystery of the south rather than imposing judgements. As novelist Harry Crews states when White encounters him on a deserted strip of road: “truth of the matter was, stories was everything and everything was stories”. This film is all about the story: beautifully shot and obviously scripted, White encounters a series of strange, fascinating characters from Pentacostal ministers to lifers.
Performances by The Handsome Family, Johnny Dowd and 16 Horsepower are a highlight; filmed playing in the woods, in barbershops, diners and on car bonnets, they offer a snapshot of the rich musical tradition of the region. Keep an eye out for Melissa Swingle’s crying saw rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’, it’s sure to send a shiver down your spine.