Sunday, February 20, 2011

"Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus" Has Fine Ethnographic Film In It

"Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus" is a kind of documentary of poor white Southerners living extreme lives. It is framed by the commentary of people who are not poor white Southerners, notably musician Jim White, who like to put themselves near extreme lives in order to draw upon other people's passion and authenticity.

I think the commentary is mostly not helpful, especially when they try to claim that these scenes of people at the margins of American society represent the South as a whole.

I do commend, though, the segments shot in a bar, a prison, a coal mine, and Pentecostal church. These are fine bits of life. The people in all these places are clearly from the same place in society. They repeatedly talk about living a self-destructive life as young people. Some turn to church to turn their lives around. Some do not. Both, though, talk about God - and their willful attempts to follow God and live right - as their only hope for a decent life.

I think a fine short film could be made from just these scenes, with a neutral voiceover describing where, exactly, they are shot.

A big part of the film was showing off the performances of musicians described in all the commentary as "" I don't know enough about the genre to know if these were significant performers within it. The songs themselves were not my cup of tea; that is not essential to what I thought was most valuable in the film.

The filmed bits of real life, though, are worth the visit.

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