Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus (2003) Poster

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A good look at Southern extremes
johnsamo-17 July 2005
Grew up in similar places, but its a bit skewed. Don't really think you can get the whole of the South by going to a prison, some roadside bars and some Pentecostal churches. Its basically rubbernecking anthropology, searching for and finding the extreme without bothering to mention that it is the extreme...

Not every southerner is poor, or has to either be a holy-roller or a heathen. Southerners generally are more religious than the norm, but for every Pentecostal, you'll find a baptist, Methodist and a Church of Christ patron that isn't nearly as eclectic and thinks the Pentecostals are a little weird too.

But I've never been all that bothered by the Southern stereotypes (they are sort of true) so beyond that, a real entertaining film.
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b-zondag9 December 2005
As a 'stranger' to the American culture, I was really impressed by this docu-movie. It gives me a look in the American South. Of course one can not give a complete portrait of something. There always a need for some subjectivity. I understand there a million other sides of the American South.

For example, if you make a movie about Holland, surely you'll see mills and klompen. This is not representative for modern-day Holland, but it's a part of our culture, our history. I think the same applies to this movie.

Apart from this, the movie is intertwining music, art and storytelling. This is fantastic!
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Alt. country sucks and so does this film about it
arremmbooker20 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
We need more negative comments on this film. Sadly it is a strong expression and will continue to influence people, especially youngsters. But we should expose its "alt. country" aesthetic for the exploitative hubris it pretends not to be.

If you make it through this film without laughing out loud at Jim White's nonsense, you should watch it again and really use your brain.

"I decided I'm going to come back to the South and become a Southerner. As best I can. I will never be a Southerner. I will be this imitation of a Southerner. But in a way, I feel like that brings me closer to God, because I've chosen--it's almost like a form of divinity. I've chosen my divinity rather than my divinity choosing me."

Oh yeah? You're like this guy I know who decided he's going to go back to L.A. and become a gangster. He'll never be a gangster. He'll be this imitation of a gangster. But in a way, he feels like that brings him closer to reality, because he's chosen . . . it's like a new form of authenticity. He's chosen his authenticity rather than his authenticity choosing him. Last I heard he'd started an "alt. hip-hop" group no one cares about.

"You don't see the south ... on the interstate. You go 5 or 10 miles off the interstate and you get the South as it was 50 years ago or a 100 years ago. And you can't do that in many places."

SFWEJ is ostensibly a film about "Southern" culture, but its composition--its contrived southern Gothic aesthetic--tells us much more about contemporary American cultural stagnation, evidenced in such desperate identity-quests as White's. It's a shame that he inscribes that identity onto people he doesn't know and I daresay would never ACTUALLY hang out with, just so he can legitimate the ersatz prewar Southern image he's constructed for himself. He's like, what, 40? And he acts like a verbally gifted high-school kid who's still finding himself. He naively makes up stories about people he may not have really known, and inserts himself in between scenes of "authentic" (non-actor) Southerners to remind us that he and they are one and the same (as if such gestures could conceal his position of literary and social power over his subject-cum-object).

By focusing only on the most remote and eccentric locales and people, White, the filmmakers, and the other musicians are only furthering irrelevant Southern stereotypes--keeping the fictional literary South alive so the mediocre, media-addled Anglo-Americans for whom it was constructed more than 100 years ago can go on dreaming their jaded, irrelevant dreams--and buying albums and concert tickets. This aesthetic object, the "South," contains no meaningful or useful information. It has two purposes: to make money, and to get our collective rocks off on an Other.

No one disputes that Pentecostal gatherings are unusual, even Pentecostals—unless they are too young or sheltered to know that there are other people in the world besides Pentecostals. But because they are unusual and there are quite a few of them in "the South" (not to mention in the more Southern nations of the Caribbean and elsewhere all over the planet) they supposedly embody the aesthetic paradox of hell/heaven, bliss/torment, that characterize "the South"'s "atmosphere." Great job, guys. I've never encountered that before. It's not like Faulkner and O'Connor used poetic metaphors a million years ago to justify the ignorance, poverty, and needless suffering they perceived around them. But when ignorance, poverty and needless suffering are the lived reality rather than a marketing tool I have a hard time caring whether there's "beauty in it."

The film doesn't come clean; it doesn't admit that it's primarily a promotion for the handful of alt. country musicians we see trying to blend in with the extras (read: human props). Everything about these pretentious protagonists betrays their conceit and their second-hand rip-off of the '60s folk revival (which was itself an ersatz identity-crisis that had no bearing on the lives of most real people living in the South). How derivative can you get? The way Johansen plays Geechie Wiley's "Last Kind Word" shows me nothing about the "South." It only shows me he has probably seen Crumb, the documentary about R. Crumb, whence most anyone's knowledge of that recording comes. Admit it.

The cinematography is beautiful, but the pretense to ethnography (or whatever you'd call it) is a shameful context for such talent. The scene with Melissa Swingle playing "Amazing Grace" on the saw is gorgeous, but is only palatable as a stand-alone music video; I could do without her oh-so-"Southern" anecdote. Some of the other musicians are talented and seem sincerely inspired. White seems like a nice guy, a dedicated artist and a hard worker. But they've opened an undead can of worms. No doubt many of my fellow Arkansans have seen this film. To what degree it inspires the alt. country scene in this region I don't know, but it can potentially warp lots of minds and that is depressing.

Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus is perfect proof that the neo-Gothic, alt. country "Southern" aesthetic is a "postmodern" (in Fredric Jameson's sense) symptom of America's lack of historical sense. Don't buy into the pseudo-populist fantasy that the South hasn't sold out, that urban sprawl is not the "real" South, that if you rambled aimlessly in this vaguely-defined region you would find the philosopher's stone Jim White wants to be there. It's all mythology, and unoriginal mythology at that. This film masquerades as a rediscovery or celebration of something the "South" has kept which the rest of America has lost, but if you were to ask White exactly what that is, he couldn't give you a straight answer. If he could, there would be no reason to make this film and the poet/guru facade he cultivates in order to make his living would crumble.
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a beautiful somewhat disturbing look at the deep south
vincent-272 April 2005
I saw this movie late at night myself as well and it's a mesmerizing film. I am from Canada, and the world portrayed in this film seems like from a far away distant country. Substitute Christianity for Islam or Hinduism or whatever crazy religion you want and there's not much difference, extremely poor, uneducated emotional people being whipped into a frenzy by charismatic preachers. It is fascinating but also disturbing. Jim White travels around describing this strange surreal world of misfits and fringe elements of an unforgiving society. But he looks at them with pity and sympathy, and it made me have a different view on these people. They live extremely hard lives in a land of obscene riches, if that isn't enough to drive anybody to the church, I don't know what is. Everything is black and white as one interviewed inmate describes "you're either an outlaw our your in the church", you're either going to hell, burning forever or you will be saved and go to heaven. They go to church, twirl around, speak in tongues and basically act completely crazy and if this were done anywhere else, they would be locked up, but in the church it's okay, which makes it kind of cool. It's kind of a enclosed crazy house where go absolutely bonkers and then (presumably) go back into the world and live a normal life. (Kind of reminds me of that episode of Star Trek with "Landrew", where the population goes completely looney at exactly noon for about 10 minutes every day). Of course there is the odd person, liked Jim describes, that goes absolutely nuts and stays that way. The saddest thing is these people and their leaders seem to be dictating a lot of decisions in the U.S. government right now, and after seeing this movie, the thought of that will send a shiver up your spine.

Interspersed among these scenes is some really beautiful music, some by Jim White himself, it's adds a really nice touch to all the grimness that you witness throughout this film. There is beauty here, there is a rawness of emotion that can express itself in religious fervor or musical incarnations. It almost seems like the message is to leave the former for the latter.

This is a nice companion piece to "The True Meaning of Pictures" a film by Shelby Lee Adams, a photographer who takes an unflinching look at the deep south. He goes even a little deeper than this film, interviewing the snake handlers and the strychnine drinkers, the REALLY wacked out elements of this society.

Anyway, if this subject interests you, seek these two films out, they are honest, unexploitive, unflattering and not condescending looks that the deep south.
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A caution as to the accuracy of what the documentary portrays.
derbyd4022 August 2006
To amend the other comment, it is not primarily Louisiana, but North/Central/East Florida up to North Georgia/South Carolina area. I lived 23 years in Gainesville, FL, my master's thesis required me to extensively examine Southern Appalachian culture, I know people who have had Harry Crews for a professor, I have read much southern literature, and I am familiar with the Cracker culture. I only state this to show I am more researched with the "true" South. It is a good and rather accurate documentary but biased in that it focuses on finding out the meaning of something. Thus the documentary is not an accurate portrayal of the entire South but of sub-cultures to the South. Another good look at more Eastern Florida is "Vernon, FL," showing a different sub-culture well. The other review comment's enough and is accurate but to note it is hard for any one documentary or film to capture what the South is considering how regional and place specific traditions, religions, and lifestyles are, so don't take the film as "truth" creating a stereotype. A lot of behavior examined in this documentary comes from, in my opinion, boredom, difficult financial conditions, and the heat and humidity. Not a rather atypical result of these either I might add. Anybody staying anytime in any of these places will soon experience emotions contributing to this behavior and cultural identity. Other than that, it is worth watching if you are at all interested in documentaries, aspects of southern culture, or are just interested in people.
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Y'all See This Highly Original Documentary!
alexduffy20002 July 2004
"Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus" is a great documentary, it took me into a world I had never seen, the world of deep-South music combined with Pentacostal fanaticism. Great website too, see it at I saw this movie at the LA Film Festival in June, 2004, and had no idea what to expect. The culture of lower-middle class rural Southern whites (mostly in Louisiana) is a world of work Monday-Friday, get REAL drunk on Saturday, and show up to church on Sunday with a hangover. The movie shows a certain intensity to this "Southern week", as there isn't much else to do but work, drink, and church in those parts. Oh, and play music. Some incredible solo artists and bands that I've never heard of are in this films as well! Jim White, Johnny Dowd, The Handsome Family, 16 Horsepower, and Trailer Bride just to name a few. This is one of the most original documentaries I've seen in the last five years, and I've seen quite a few. Go see it!
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Not a full picture of the "South"
JustCuriosity23 September 2006
Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus takes the outsider on a beautiful lyrical esoteric journey through a part of the South that most of us have never seen. In that sense, it is eye-opening. However, its Cinema Verite approach lacks context and leaves the outsider to understand that are being presenting with something truly central about the essence of the modern "South" when in reality they are only seeing a highly-selective isolated and fading subculture of the poor, rural, white, poorly-educated, mostly Pentecostal world of a few small Southern towns. By only presenting this small piece of the South, the director seems to reinforce, probably unintentionally, the negative stereotypes of Southerners as "hicks" that too many outsiders unfortunately already hold. As someone who has lived in more urban parts of Virginia and Texas for the last 26 years, I find this selective picture of the "South" to be very off-putting and incomplete. The outsider is not given the context to understand the true complexity of the American South. Most Southerners live in urban and suburban areas. The importance of African-Americans to southern culture is sadly not shown. Most Southerners are not Pentecostals speaking in tongues. Most Southerners are better educated and more sophisticated than those shown in this film. The South is an increasingly multi-cultural region as well. Nor does this picture provide the viewer with any sort of analysis or economic understanding of why this part of the rural South has been left behind. Rather than presenting the heart of the South as the film implicitly claims, it shows the margins of the modern South. That's fine and important, but without more context it risks doing a disservice to the world it is trying present fairly. The viewer would be better served by a fuller accounting of today's south and an explanation of why these people shown have been marginalized.
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an amazing movie
Ieatstopsigns23 March 2006
This was the best movie i saw in 2005, and i even saw it in the theater twice. That's 10.50 for a ticket and i saw it twice! It is the perfect blend of beautiful cinematography, interesting subject matter and music, and exceptional editing. On top of all of that the camera work was unbelievable. That one scene where they man and the women are singing in the barbershop left me with that awesome feeling of "how the hell did they do that?" which I haven't felt since the elevator shot in Touch of Evil. Every time I talk to a friend about movies i tell them to see this one right away, and I don't do that a lot. I read a newspaper article that described Wrong Eyed Jesus as a "Surrealist Look at the South," and it is. It is a collage of incredible sights and sounds that will leave you breathless.
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Cursory, self-absorbed and unenlightening perambulations across a monolithic, stereotypical south
Jeremiah Taylor4 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
In this rambling, self-indulgent wreck of a film, alternative country singer Jim White–-and a host of other music industry "outsiders"--team up with two British film makers to talk (and sing) about the south. While White, the documentary's main searcher for the soul of the south, is by no means a stupid man, neither he nor his British "translators" possess enough profundity to warrant White's constant--and self-consciously "earthy"--philosophizing: the best of his musings amount to bland truisms (e.g., that southern society forces its members into certain molds and excludes those beyond the pale of its narrow norms (a trait, in truth, of most _human societies_)); the worst come across as the disjointed prattling of a man in love with his own voice--a man determined to tell us that his "southern blood" grants him deep, mystic insights into this "exotic" land and its incomprehensible inhabitants. Of course, such metaphysical feats of interpretation are intended to add an air of spiritual legitimacy to White's music: the film, after all, is a search for the world described in White's first album, "Wrong-Eyed Jesus." Such skewed, presumptuous, and (on White's end especially) doubtlessly financial and egoistic aims are especially dangerous; for many viewers will take--and many have in fact taken--this film as a genuine window into the culture of the southern United States.

The problem is that White and his British collaborators possess such a powerful--and, in the issue, _predictable_--set of preconceptions about what they should find in the south, that they hardly bother to look beyond the narrow ken of the camera or listen to anything save the pseudo-profound and affected postmodern "folksiness" of the music and musicians they carry with them. The south, they say (resurrecting a tired old bit of southern gothica), is locked in a Manichaean struggle between Flesh and Spirit, Devil and God; the south is peopled by dead-eyed Pentecostal shouters, undulating whores and raging drunkards, hard-luck miners and born-again deep-fryers; and the south, they say, is all the same--a great cultural and spiritual monolith from the Louisiana Delta to the eastern coalfields of Kentucky. Such gross oversimplifications both complement and determine the film's subsequent course. White and company--with silent, superfluous concrete Christ in tow--spend more time babbling about their own "weighty" insights and showcasing their own music (sometimes while local ragamuffins stare in staged wonder at these "furriners" explicating their little southern souls in song) than in actually interacting with the "natives." When locals do enter the lens, the encounter is always brief, shallow and artificial--indeed, many of the interviews seem staged--and the overall feeling is often _exploitive_. A grotesque menagerie of stereotypes is wheeled before the camera, each one comporting itself in a fashion consonant with the film makers' expectations: the saved cavort with the Spirit and dribble glossolalia from contorted lips; violent "bad men" with vacant faces and empty, idiotic bravado shoot stop signs, do meth, go to juke joints, go to prison; trailer-dwelling sluts revel in sex, bars and bad men; coal miner-banjoists live hard lives and are inscrutable. And occasionally the filmmakers' cursory stabs at even the most predictably stereotypical storytelling degenerate into freak-show gawking, as when the camera, now close up, leers pornographically at the jumbled tattoos of a wretched trailer-denizen or lingers, almost mockingly, upon the painfully unfortunate physiognomy of one of the twice-born.

That said, does _Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus_ possess any commendable qualities? Well, unless you are a doggedly dedicated fan of Jim White or some of the other artists featured here, the answer is no. The camera work, of course, is sometimes passable--and a few of the shots of industrial architecture are _vaguely_ reminiscent of similar scene compositions in Robert Flaherty's _Louisiana Story_ (1948). But Jim White's avowed quest for the southern power in his blood is too flawed by self-absorption, incoherence, and reliance on cheap stereotypes to be salvaged by any minor aesthetic merits. Even casual students of southern culture should look askance at a film that runs roughshod over a large, often troubled but intricately complex and diverse region--a film that, when it condescends to look at southern people at all, only stares at them as specimens, whose life-habits, histories and individual destinies are as straightforward and predictable as those of a toad in a terrarium. White doesn't need southern blood, a spiritual epiphany, a train of fellow independent artists or even some naive British documentarians to "discover" the "Mind of the South" as it is depicted here. A century of popular media, replete with grotesque stereotypes, smug explication, and smarmy missionary sentiment, has interpreted THAT south again and again. White and company are simply pouring old wine into a greasy, poorly stitched bag. Despite initial promises of a spiritual journey, one soon realizes that _Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus_ hasn't gone anywhere at all. Indeed, all of this crass, sterile, artistic self-gratification is transpiring right upon the old, familiar dunes of the "Sahara of the Bozarts." Somewhere the ghost of H. L. Mencken is snickering.
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Are you kidding?
imjustabill197525 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
As a quirky film promoting singers this movie is just fine. That's the only nice thing I can think to say about it. Otherwise it's portrayal of the South is about as accurate as The Beverly Hillbillies or The Dukes of Hazzard. I wasn't sure if I should laugh or scream at the ridiculousness of this flick. Having been born and raised in South Georgia, and having spent years in Florida and other parts of Georgia and the South, I can't help but wonder how long it took to find all these places. The movie goes from the armpit of Louisiana to one tiny town in the armpit of Florida over 600 miles away. Then, it sets off for the darkest speck in the Appalachians, another 800 miles away. All this is done in a beat-up old car, because apparently Southerners don't own anything made in the current millennium (with Jesus hanging out of the trunk). I'm not saying they should have set up a musician on an Atlanta skyscraper, or even in the middle of a college football field (although that's the real church of the South). I just don't think that the movie should position itself as a general look at the South, its music and its religion. Jim himself lives in Athens, GA. This is the land of REM and the University of Georgia. As a recent resident of a town only 30 minutes from Athens, I can assure you that snake-handling religious freaks and Jesus Saves Catfish Truck Stops are just as laughable here as they are in NYC or the UK. And no these are not the people electing our politicians (well, maybe that place in Florida). To say they are the margins of the South is putting it mildly. These places made for some great gritty backdrops to play some music in front of, but that's about it. This all might have been more believable if the stories told didn't sound so obviously scripted. I'm thinking the location scout for this film is the same guy that finds people to interview right after a tornado in the Mid-West. Quite a knack for finding the freaks. I've also lived in Cali and NYC. I find it hilarious that people from these places took this movie so seriously. Try getting out of your bubble. The South is actually a really nice place. You should see it sometime. We've learned to read and write and think for ourselves. We hardly even eat dirt or opossum anymore. Jackasses.
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A Picture Painted Marvelously
kosmoskid26 November 2006
Being an import into the South, I was mesmerized by the opening scenes of this movie, and was filled with a unique representation of the Gothic South. I was displeased though to read the comments here with a clear misunderstanding of the movie was trying to portray. The movie is about the South, not about a mindless devotion to Pentecostalism. Although that is portrayed in the movie, I feel it's important to understand that the South, unlike other parts of the country is a place full of the clash of religion and "hell-raising." The Church is only one element in this film as the other elements of ghoulish beauty, good-natured people, and a love for simplistic things seems to have been overlooked by other commentaries here on IMDb. I just felt inclined to mention the movie is more about THE South, than just a pocket of the Church, and it's notable that the comments have all come from Yankees, who after seeing this movie, might not still have a clue about the charming,haunting beauty of the South.
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more heavy handed sentimentality about "the south"
princebuster8213 May 2006
This is another in a long stream of movie industry attempts to dramatize the south in a "it's so pretty, let's show close ups of trees and swamps and have people pick banjo's" etc etc.

This is no more an accurate portrayal of the south then say "Forrest Gump". Scenes like inside the barber shop where the guy and the woman are singing some type of murder ballad are pretty much indicative of the tone of the entire movie. If you notice the scene is obviously scripted (like a lot of the film is) and check out the very real discomfort and embarrassment of the locals sitting there waiting for a haircut.

"People in the south won't talk to you if you're driving a new Land Rover or something." Then all through the movie you see "every day people" driving by in mostly newer SUV's and sedans, and the filmmakers are the only ones driving a beat-up 1970 Chevy.

This whole film is mainly a riff on the idea of the south that most outsiders have, a view that is mainly perpetuated by Hollywood.

It's time for the motion picture establishment to make a real southern movie, documentary or not. It's a shame that people who saw this on the BBC believe this to be the way things really are in the southern US. What's even more unsettling is the people in our own country believe it as well.
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How can you search for what you already have?
Sibella9 June 2007
I am a huge fan of Jim White the musician, and I didn't make it through more than 23 minutes of this film. Now maybe things changed later; I'll grant that.

Right at the beginning of the film, White procures a concrete statue of Jesus. He and some others remove it from where it lies in state along the entire length of the inside of a car trunk. But when it goes into the trunk of his seemingly equally large car, it protrudes beyond the back of the car, as if it doesn't fit--so we can see White's burden. It seems a telling incident: the heavy-handed symbolism and artsy contrivance stick out from White's cinematic vehicle like...well, You Know Who.

By the time I stopped, nearly all of the people I'd seen talking were No Depression- magazine-darling musicians and other people who might have used the film toward an MFA. Not that there's anything wrong with the highly qualified and sometimes actually Southern talent here. (I especially enjoyed Harry Crews' storytelling.) But the film purports to be a sort of documentary road trip, exploring Southern spiritual culture, and instead was on its way to becoming--I repeat, I quit a third of the way in--a sometimes evocatively pretty, sometimes maddeningly awkward music video.

Why drive around the Louisiana bayous if the people you "find" playing banjos and singing spirituals are, like you, likely to have tour schedules on MySpace?

I emphasize: Jim White is a musical genius, and this film should not dissuade anyone from checking out his work or that of artists like Crews, the Handsome Family, etc. It's just an unfortunate misstep as a movie.
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A success, for its attempts
oen-anderson17 February 2010
I am sort of split both ways about this film. On the one hand, I agree with what a lot of folks have said about it--it certainly doesn't present a picture of the "whole" South, in any way, or even much of the South, at that. I was born in rural Virginia and grew up in Austin, TX., and I'm not much like most of the folks in this film, being from a large city with a culture very different from the corners of the Deep South this film was looking at. What's more, I'm currently finishing up my college education in Massachusetts, and when people up here ask me where I'm from and I tell them I'm from Texas, it does irk me when sometimes they give me weird looks and make comments like their whole picture of anything south of the Mason-Dixon line is just like this movie and it gives them the willies to have someone like that in the car with them or whatever (though even if it was, I don't see why that should--it's not like I or the folks in this film are gonna pull a pistol on them or something).

That said, I think criticizing the film on those grounds misses its intent. It's clearly not a documentary in the same way that, say, a nature special is--the point is to focus on a very specific aspect of the South that the people involved in the film consider important and to capture it aesthetically, rather than make a "true-to-life" (whatever that means) depiction of the South as a whole. The film broadcasts that every second. Complaining about certain parts of it being "staged" or the characters in the film seeming hand-picked sounds silly to me--I mean, of course they are. This ain't a fly-on-the-wall film and it isn't trying to be; it's not trying to hoodwink anyone or pull the wool over the eyes of foreigners to sell records or whatever. I think it would be equally silly to view this movie and get the impression that it was trying to be an "objective" documentary, and if anyone sees this film and views it that way, I'm gonna say that's their fault for being thick and not the movie's for trying to "trick" them.

I do think it's understandable to see this and have sort of a knee-jerk reaction lumping it in with all the other films and books and articles and advertisements and whatever that do portray the South in a very limited, stereotyped light and do so mainly to cash in on a false conception a lot of folks have and make a quick buck. They are certainly legion and irksome. However, not only do they try a lot harder to fool people, but they--like this film--are able to succeed based on the fact that what they are trying to portray does really exist, in a sense, just not in nearly as distilled a fashion. I've spent plenty of time in small towns, out in the woods, in the desert, the middle of nowhere, wherever, and though Texas is pretty different from Florida or Louisiana, the sort of folks and the kinds of happenings portrayed in this film are definitely around, and it can be a real joy to find people willing to spin a yarn or talk with you about religion or play music--or just shoot the breeze and relax or whatever.

For some people--Jim White and a lot of the other musicians in the film, it seems, for instance--certain types of those sorts of experiences, in this case frequently the darkly or strikingly religious ones, are the heart of the South. They see them as the essence of the region, it's a distillation of what makes it important to them, and they want to capture it--in song, or film, or what have you. Doing that requires excluding a lot of other stuff about it that doesn't come as close to the core for them. Other people have very different ideas about what the essence of the South is, and that's fine, it makes sense; it's a huge and very multi-faceted area, but that doesn't make the views of those people illegitimate. In as much as this film is an attempt to capture that particular spirit, I think it's an emphatic success. It's sublime and haunting, the stories are great, and the music is wonderful. Does it show the whole, resounding South, in all its glory? Absolutely not--it has wrung a very specific type of dark beauty out of the region like a damp cloth. Woe betide anyone who views this film and thinks it's the total picture, for sure (although how any film could ever possibly hope to do that, I don't know--after all, just because it doesn't show your own experience of the South doesn't mean it misses the point, given that we've all acknowledged the South is vast), but it's hard to imagine that such a person would be able to tell the difference between the evening news and an action movie either. If you're better than that--and I think you are--you may enjoy this film.
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Entirely off-base
moorarr027 January 2009
While, as a musician, I enjoyed many of the performances, I found this to be an entirely off-base depiction of the American south. Born and raised in Nashville, TN, I have "ventured off the highway ten miles" many times in Tennessee and never found anyone resembling the mythical southerners depicted in this film. My mother's family has lived in Tennessee for around two hundred years, and of the many stories I have heard about Tennessee as it was seventy-five years ago, I have heard only of intelligent, hard-working people who lived in small-towns, attended church regularly, often went to college out-of-state, drove cars, had electricity, were respectful of their spouses, and did not speak in tongues or pass snakes around on Sundays. These were not the richest of Southerners, they were just average Southerners. The South depicted in this film died with the founding of the TVA, if it hadn't died prior, and frankly it disgusts me that people from Canada and elsewhere are viewing this film and thinking that is at all an accurate depiction of the South.

I currently live in Franklin County, TN, and even poorer southerners who live in cities like Cowan or Decherd do not resemble in the slightest the extreme versions of Southerns found in this film, so if planning a trip to the south to see the southerners sitting on their front porch playing a banjo with a hound dog next to them, save yourself plane fare and don't bother.
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Profoundly informative
collywobbles25 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Though I have ventured through the American South on a few occasions, it has always remained to me a deeply mysterious place. This superbly photographed documentary shed some light and dispelled some long-standing myths for me.

For example, I had formerly believed that the South was a land still deeply divided along colour lines. I see now that that's impossible -- there are no black people in the South! So how could racism possibly rear it's ugly head? It can't! Yes, friends, the truth about the South is that it is a land full to bursting of friendly but misunderstood white folks, who may not have much formal education, but are endless fonts of homespun wisdom, tattoo their bodies with all their regrets and can even quote Goethe.

I highly recommend this film. If Diane Arbus had decided to use her talent for bad rather than good and then went out to make a film, then Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus is exactly the film she would have made!
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searching for reflections of deliverance
stargeography30 January 2008
First off, I liked, and investigated, a lot of the music i heard in this film. Now on to the unpleasantries..

I feel ambivalent about this movie but ultimately had to admit that i am much more more closely aligned with those that disparaged of this film. Structurally, this film had a basic flaw: it lacked a cohesive thread to stitch all of the collected pieces of film together; sort of like trying to cook a stew without heat. I also have to say, the film did have redeeming aspects: beautiful cinematography, fine music and some unique shreds of dialogue. However, there are aspects of this movie that are offensive: preconception and sentimentalism being a couple of them. One can't help but get the impression that, unlike a true, dispassionate, inquisitive, documentary, these guys came to the table with a set specific notions about what the south is supposed to be: the twilight zone. Admittedly, much of the imagery, coupled with the music, is quite evocative. Sure, I, like the next guy, want to have a privileged glimpse beyond a veil of Spanish moss into the murky realm of the dusky swamp- the dark side. But, come on, some of this just feels forced: musicians (yankees at that) playing on nearly submerged porch of an uninhabited house, the mysteriously silent and tough car mechanic, who rents the crew one of his cars -at their own peril- the scene where you can feel, only moments before, the director said, "alright, stand on that gravel patch and start playing towards the trailer park" (isn't that a kind of a pretension?), then of course, there is the cheerless boy, standing motionless, spitting occasionally, which brings me to the taste of this movie that did not sit well with me and remained most palpable afterward: It felt as if these guys weren't searching for a wrong- eyed Jesus, they were searching for the banjo playing kid from Deliverance .
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Great documentary
joeb19904 April 2010
As a response to others: Places like this do exist. When you talk about how rare they are and refer to them as "armpits" you are only expressing your ignorance. This movie is not trying to convey the South. It is this small town southern culture that you are oblivious to that they are trying to show and they do so effectively.

Firstly, the cinematography is hair raisingly beautiful. The color used almost looks Hollywood in style. The grays greens and browns are bleak and beautiful. Secondly the characters are excellently picked. Jim is a little stiff but is sincere enough that he is believable. His cowboy philosophy gets to be a little much at times but slows down towards the end of the film. The music throughout just adds to the story and also slows down in the second half. I really don't want to talk about too much just watch and be taken into a world that you may not be familiar with (even if you live in the same region).
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This ain't no Deliverance
techboardhr15 April 2006
A mediocre movie. All through the film you get the feeling that there likely would have been much more interesting tangents to follow. Don't expect to hear much musical talent either! Jim White does add some thoughtful commentary along the way but not enough to make up for many boring sequences. I suppose if you are into offbeat and slow movies you might enjoy this one. Also this was not nearly as bad as "Last Days" which I could not even finish. If this movie represented the typical lifestyle of the Southern experience (which it does not) I would be scared as hell to go down that way. I give it four to balance out anyone who thought this deserved anything over seven.
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thought provoking, moving and eye opening!
sashaormond11 June 2005
This was definitely the most intriguing documentary I have seen in years. While it deals with the obvious issues facing the sometimes impoverished South, it's subtext is poignant and beautifully haunting. I felt swept away into a world so strange, and somehow peaceful in it's harshness. Jim White, the films narrator, and musical contributor, seems to be a wise man with much to teach in his portrayal of religion and human nature, not to mention his amazing bluegrass melodies and guitar whines. This soundtrack is amazing! Rootsy and real and rich with history. See this doc if you are interested in our multi faceted world with it's many dark secrets, beautiful truths, religion and spirituality found in every shadow. You just need to look.
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While this film might hurt Southern tourism, it won't hurt the mystique of life in the South.
reel_reviewer14 April 2004
What can I say about this film, except that it's perhaps the most bizarre travelogue I've ever seen - that works! Probably because it's subject is the small towns of the Deep South where the natives slavish devotion to Jesus via the Pentecostal faith produces no shortage of bizarre rituals from faith-healing to speaking in tongues. Best of all is 'tour guide'-musician Jim White who explores the region via a beat-up Chevy sporting a porcelain Jesus figurine (almost lifesize) hanging out the trunk. White is a natural storyteller and shares his bizarre memories of life in the South in between the truly freakish episodes that occur in each town as the locals gladly share their wit, wisdom. music, and sadness. If you liked the 'scene-intrusive' band in "There's Something About Mary" then you'll love the zany musicians that appear out of nowhere to provide musical codas to each segment. Appalachian, folk, and black humor laden ballads dominate the score of this truly strange undertaking. Director David Lynch ("Wild at Heart") may be on hiatus, but these guys are filling the gap. My one reservation is that some of the segments don't work as well as others so it's definitely not a perfect film, but it is very 'different', so if that's what you like then check it out. If you needed one more reason NOT to go south of the Mason-Dixon line this documentary has got it!!!-lol!
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breath taking
huntley_haverstock30 June 2005
every once in a while in life you get the chance to glance at real greatness. last night i had just such an opportunity. in came in the form of a great movie. i discovered this film almost by accident as i was paging through the monthly programming guide of my local art house theater, when i stumbled upon one of the oddest titles i had ever seen. the title of course was 'searching for the wrong-eyed Jesus.' the title enough seemed like a good reason to see this film, but as i read the short synopsis, i became way more interested in seeing it. so the next day i called a good buddy and we headed downtown.

needless to say this was more then worth the trip through the torrential downpour we had to fight. the film is a documentary that follows a singer named Jim white as he travels through America's south in an attempt to discover the beauty that is so often overlooked. he accomplishes this task through an assortment of visits to Churches, prisons, barber shops, and roadside bars. he uncovers a small treasure of musical genius as he makes his way across Alabama, and Mississippi. he also reveals an inspiring, if a times disturbing faith that is held tightly by a people so close to complete physical, and emotional devastation that it makes you wonder why they bother at all. it was eye opening to see a world geographically not that far from the one i grew up in, yet ideologically, and sociologically as far as another planet. a world where poverty is so expected and anticipated, that faith in God is mandatory, if only because there is nothing else to have faith in.

the cinematography was also unlike anything else i had ever seen. from the first fade into the opening scene i could tell this was going to be something special, and i was right. when it was over i found myself disappointed that it couldn't go on longer for the same reason one is implored to keep staring a breathtaking painting, an amazing photograph, or a beautiful woman.

i would encourage everyone to see a movie like this if only to broaden your aesthetic palette. but be warned, too many films like this, and every other movie you see just won't stack up.
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Gross misrepresentation of the South and Southerners
Texshan10 August 2005
This movie clearly was made with an agenda, and that was to depict the South as being a place full of dirt poor, stupid, inbred rednecks with more fleas than sense. Everyone depicted in this film is a slack-jawed yokel. This film is no more representative of the South than Grosse Point Blank is representative of Detroit. The Southern people, while often retaining their traditional values of faith in God and a deep mistrust of the government, have largely evolved into a cosmopolitan, technology-driven population. Why did this film only focus on rural areas? Why did it completely fail to visit Houston, Dallas, New Orleans, Atlanta, Miami, Nashville, or dozens of other places? Because the filmmakers wanted to make a point, and they couldn't have made it if they had actually visited places that are spread out across the South today.
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an astonishing movie
sales-66320 January 2007
Jim White narrates and takes the viewer on Jim's own personal sojourn thru the deep south.

Strange and compelling individuals and musicians crop up throughout.

It's a fascinating and awesome piece of work,serving as an introduction to the bizarre and twisted swamp-blues world of the great Johnny Dowd,16 Horsepower,The Handsome Family and Jim White himself.

Johnny Dowd performing 'There's Been A Murder Here Today' in the back of a barber shop and Harry Crews stumbling down a country road spouting obtuse verse are pure poetry.

The film makes a tributary nod to Robert Johnson by leaving a statue of the virgin Mary at the crossroads.

Anyone who has a passing interest in modern day blues will find themselves tracking down the music of the featured artists without a doubt.

This is truly a masterpiece and a future cult classic
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A truthfilled representation of the south
Glen Gibson24 June 2006
I would highly recommend this film to those who can appreciate an "as is" representation of our Southern American culture. I found the stories and testimonies of the south to be accurate and insightful. The film keeps your interest like flipping through a readers digest... there's a lot of good stories and none take too long to tell. My favorite part is when he rents an old 1970 two tone Chevy for a $100 a day so he can fit in with the locals. I also found the people and their personal reflections on life refreshing. The film does a good job of representing a diverse group of people and shares everyones story from the shouting religious types to the folks who opted out of the church seen and are down at the local bar.
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