Midway through I'm Like This Every Day, friends of underground musician Peter Stubb debate whether or not Stubb is actually a werewolf. Such is the unverifiable quality of Stubb's legend. Since the early 1990s, between trips to the state mental hospital in Georgia, Stubb has made nearly 100 rare but highly sought after home-recorded cassette tapes of his often catchy, but lyrically death-obsessed, violent, and sad acoustic music. Stubb's lo-fi tapes, some available only in editions of one or two, have the eerie, timeless, and deeply lonesome feel of old Alan Lomax field recordings. When director Mitchell Powers goes to the haunted, piney, Civil War blood-soaked hills of northwest Georgia, he finds that Stubb's story shares some of the epic and tragic quality of the old bluesmen at the crossroads.
As the film opens, we see home video footage of a young and fresh-faced Stubb looking into the camera and saying, "Music is basically my life." The first shot of contemporary Stubb is of just his arm, lined from wrist to elbow with scars from self-inflicted knife slashes, as he strums the guitar. The story of the rough years in between is told chronologically by interviews with Stubb and childhood friends from defeated, dead-end factory town Dalton, Ga. known as "the carpet capital of the world." Along the way we learn tales of Stubb painting his own child in blood and fucking a can of cranberry sauce during the making of his classic "Blueberry Masturbator" tape, while we meet characters like a shirtless, neck-tattooed friend of Stubb's named Number Two, who cheerfully makes his screen debut trying to piss into his own mouth with one hand while carrying a tall can of Steel Reserve in the other.
Yet when Stubb's ex-wife remembers fondly, "No one had ever sang to me like that before," it is achingly sweet. The film is so compelling because debut director Powers never sensationalizes these characters, but instead presents their stories with generosity and warmth. By refusing to diagnose Stubb or dismiss him as mentally ill, Powers suggests that the struggle to stare down our demons is one we all share. In only 19 minutes, Powers' sympathetic short probes the uncomfortable border between being an artist and being insane. Stubb's friends speak of him with reverence, awe, and a loving acceptance: "Peter gets obsessed with these shadow demons that inhabit his body," explains Number Two, with suddenly sober conviction. "And the only way he can get them out is to cut them out."
I'M LIKE THIS EVERY DAY PLAYS WITH BIGFOOT: A BEAST ON THE RUN
Sat/18, 5 p.m.; Oct 22, 9:30 p.m., $10.50
Roxie, 3117 16th St, SF
THE SEVENTH SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY FESTIVAL runs Oct. 17Nov. 6 at the Roxie, 3117 16th St, SF and the Shattuck, 2230 Shattuck, Berk. For tickets (most shows $10.50) and more information, visit www.sfindie.com>.