Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus an exploration of music and the south is playing at the Balboa in San Francisco. It is also at the IFC Center in NYC and is opening in other cities (check the news section of the website).
The documentary was originally produced for the BBC’s Arena and will be shown on the Sundance Channel and released on DVD next year. But see it in a theater if you can. And in San Francisco on Sunday, July 31st, Jim White who is the guide for the film’s tour of the south, will be at the Balboa at 8:30 pm to talk about the film and do a short performance. He’ll do a full set the night before at the Great American Music Hall.
Director Andrew Douglas became interested in the south after hearing White’s album, Wrong-Eyed Jesus: Mysterious Tales of How I Shouted. He joins White
in a white Cadillac with a statue of Jesus in the trunk for a journey that is both visually and sonically stunning.
It might have helped if Douglas had made a bit of a visual sacrifice. None of the musicians or locations are identified with title (what is know as lower-thirds).
So people unfamiliar with the music and the south may be a bit lost. It is helpful to look at the section on the musicians on the website before seeing the film.
Novelist Harry Crews talks about how he made up stories about the people
in the Sears Catalog. There are visits to bars, diners, prisons, and churches.
The Handsome Family play several songs in striking settings. Melissa Swinggle of Trailer Bride plays Amazing Grace on a saw. Other musicians include Johnny Dowd, 16 Horsepower, and Lee Sexton.
One thing that becomes clear is this is a tour of a white south. Beyond White’s mention that he listened to white gospel when he was young, race isn’t directly addressed.
Guardian profile of White.
SF Chron article on White.
Even if you don’t live in San Francisco, it is worth subscribing to the Balboa‘s newsletter. Owner Gary Meyer (who co-founded the Landmark theater chain which is now owned by Mark Cuban) writes about film festivals, what it is like to run a small
independent theater, and the state of the movie industry.