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SEARCHING FOR THE WRONG-EYED JESUS (director: Andrew Douglas; screenwriter: Steve Haisman; cinematographer: Andrew Douglas; editor: Michael Elliot; music: Jim White; cast: Jim White; Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Martin Rosenbaum/Andrew Douglas; Shadow Distribution; 2005)
“The music was fine; the tour was suspect.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Brit television commercial director Andrew Douglas received a Christmas gift of a 1997 album by Jim White (his debut album), known as an alt country singer, entitled “The Mysterious Tale of How I Shouted Wrong-Eyed Jesus,” and decided to make his feature debut a documentary exploring the Deep South with Jim signed on as tour guide. It’s an outsider’s view (Jim returns after a longtime away to the South, after he grew up in Pensacola, Florida, but left in his twenties) of the Southern Gothic, landscape and its colorful white trash characters. It’s co-produced by the BBC for television. It has an eclectic soundtrack of blues, gospel, banjo and guitar picking and folksy alternate Southern tunes. The musicians include Johnny Dowd, the Handsome Family, Lee Sexton, the Singing Hall Sisters, David Johansen and Jim White. The music was fine; the tour was suspect.

The philosophical Jim rents for $100 a day a beat-up 1970 Chevy, a car with the right look to explore the South, and places in the trunk an almost-lifesized statue of Jesus (showing his bleeding heart) that he purchased on a whim for $65. It’s mostly through the eyes of poor white folks who are given to raving about their Southern experience as either a bore or a hoot, that we are supposed to get a bird’s eye view of Southern culture. The tour takes us to the back-roads, bars, diners, swamps, juke joints, barber shops, junkyards, coal mines, a Louisiana prison, a Pentecostal church and some intense musicians somewhere in Florida, Louisiana, Kentucky and West Virginia. They talk Jesus talk (“Choose Jesus or choose hell”), about sex, tattoos, murders and music. You all, it sounded about as good as rattlesnake pie at a church outing.

I never got a handle on this flick as to where it was going or trying to say. It seemed a clumsily made home video type of film, where it might have been fun for those who made it but it didn’t reach me. It’s an atmospheric film that wanted desperately to cross into freak show turf, but Jesus must have been guiding it to stay on the other side of the tracks.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”