A disappointingly pedestrian entry in the personal diary genre, catchy-titled docu by freshman helmer Brian Bain examines that odd cultural hybrid, the Southern Jew. Following the path his 100-year-old grandfather traveled as a hat and tie salesman, Bain canvasses an assortment of people, cobbling together a thumbnail history of the Jewish experience south of the Mason-Dixon line. TV-friendly hourlong-length, happy ending (including marriage), and rare cross-cultural “finds” (deep-fried gefilte fish, anyone?) guarantee healthy vid life and some crossover appeal.
Unfortunately, director/narrator/guide Bain is no Ross McElwee (“Sherman’s March”) and his interviewees are a motley lot, though author/historian Eli Evans offers eloquent insight and Andrew Young’s account of Jewish involvement in civil rights adds gravitas. Off-the-cuff history proves revealing, from the synagogue-in-every-burg ’50s and ’60s, to the exodus to the North of the ’70s and ’80s, to the current influx of Orthodox communities. Country band “Kinky Friedman and the Jewboys” juices up bland proceedings with provocative down-home lyrics like, “They don’t make Jews like Jesus anymore.” Finally, pic seems stereotypically Southern — laid-back, friendly, but in no rush to get anywhere.