Searching For The Wrong-Eyed Jesus

Fired up by the haunting sounds of alt-country rocker Jim White's 1996 album The Mysterious Tale of How I Shouted Wrong-Eyed Jesus!, director Andrew Douglas (THE AMITYVILLE HORROR) and writer Steve Haisman envisioned making a documentary that would explore the landscape from which White's evocative songs sprung. The result is this fanciful road trip with...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Fired up by the haunting sounds of alt-country rocker Jim White's 1996 album The Mysterious Tale of How I Shouted Wrong-Eyed Jesus!, director Andrew Douglas (THE AMITYVILLE HORROR) and writer Steve Haisman envisioned making a documentary that would explore the landscape from which White's evocative songs sprung. The result is this fanciful road trip with the Florida-born White himself at the wheel, a film that's ultimately more a personal essay about his birthplace than a documentary portrait of American society. Tooling around the back roads of his youth like a postmodern Alan Lomax, White is searching for the same folk spirit of deep, rural Americana that inspired like-minded hipsters weaned on Robert Johnson, Flannery O'Connor, Cormac McCarthy and Johnny Cash. White does find Jesus, or at least a plaster replica of Him that's too big for the dashboard of his leased, rusted-out 1970 Chevy. Lashing Jesus to the trunk, White sets out on a colorful mission to "infiltrate the South" and get the people he meets to tell him their stories. White's journey takes him from a cut-and-shoot roadhouse, where life is best described in terms of Saturday-night sin and Sunday-morning redemption; a prison where many of the inmates are doing time for selling crystal meth; a taping of the Jubilee Gospel Hour, where the announcer reaches out to all those lonely for God; and a Born Again barbecue joint that preaches the Rapture while serving up ribs to hungry sinners. This South isn't an actual region you can point to on any U.S. map, but a snake-handling, demon-haunted night country where sudden violence goes hand-and-hand with frenzied religiosity, and a person is just as likely to run into Christ in a cow patch as the Devil at a crossroads. Along the way, several of White's fellow musicians - including murder-balladeer Johnny Dowd, idiosyncratic old-timey folksters the Handsome Family and homegrown banjo player Lee Sexton - provide accompaniment, while the great Florida novelist Harry Crews tells a tale or two. The film is evocatively shot and White is a strikingly eloquent raconteur, but however affectionate, his portrayal of the South as a spooky redneck carnival freak show only serves to further marginalize impoverished people whose powerlessness has already rendered them irrelevant. White's take on Southern life is no more "real" than the stereotypes he's trying to disrupt, just cooler.

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  • Released: 2005
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Fired up by the haunting sounds of alt-country rocker Jim White's 1996 album The Mysterious Tale of How I Shouted Wrong-Eyed Jesus!, director Andrew Douglas (THE AMITYVILLE HORROR) and writer Steve Haisman envisioned making a documentary that would explore… (more)

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