The evocative documentary Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus seeks to discover just what it is about the South that produces the kind of performers and music that it does. For the most part, director-cinematographer Andrew Douglas uncovers some very interesting and eerie stuff-whether or not he finds the answer to his central quest.

"Alt" country singer Jim White leads the rambling road trip, driving his beat-up car through the backwaters and backwoods, traveling from bars to barbershops and meeting all kinds of people, most of whom are connected to the land and to music. Just some of the musicians White very informally interviews are The Handsome Family, Johnny Dowd, David Eugene Edwards, David Johansen and Lee Sexton. Followers will enjoy the sequences where they play-and Douglas faithfully records the "impromptu" performances.

Yet there are other bits-such as the interview with novelist Harry Crews, who spins a spellbinding tale, not to mention some shots of backwoods that are both haunting and beautiful. Sometimes Douglas makes odd choices for his cutaways, but most of the photography is appropriately askew, given the offbeat nature of the locations. The general atmosphere of creepiness even extends to the Southern churches at the heart of the lives of many.

All this makes Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus more like Deliverance and less like Robert Mugge's more straightforward documentaries about music and musicians (from Deep Blues in 1991 to Rhythm 'n' Bayous: A Road Map to Louisiana Music in 2000). But one can enjoy all the talent just the same. To say the film lingers in the mind like a nightmare is not to say it is unpleasant.

-Eric Monder