Searching for Wrong-Eyed Jesus (2003)
When director Andrew Douglas (The Amityville Horror) received a Christmas gift album from the country singer Jim White called The Mysterious Tale of How I Shouted Wrong-Eyed Jesus (1997), he called White to learn where such weird and haunting music originated. The result is this documentary film, narrated by White, who talks his way through the loneliest and most isolated parts of Florida, Virginia, Louisiana and Kentucky in a 1970 Chevy. This is the south of abandoned school buses, wash-board sandy roads, houses on stilts in swamps, and cars held together with "Alabama chrome" (duct tape). There's no condescension by director Douglas, just fascination and appreciation for the stories, the music, the people, their poetry, and especially their sensual religion. Nor is White some hayseed. He quotes Jonathan Swift and Flannery O'Connor, and has lived in Amsterdam, California and New York City, only to return to the south to understand its ways. In these quirky and desperately poor people Douglas and White find the struggle between good and evil that is every person's story. "I was thinkin' about these desperate people and their desperate, hellfire religion," says White. "So they invented a god who's gonna whup ass, basically." As for White himself, he admits that he's "looking for the gold tooth in God's crooked smile."