Area history comes alive in ‘Blood Country’

Published 11:21 pm Friday, September 8, 2017

Filmmaker Travis Mills’ latest offering brings the wild, wild west of Lawrence County to the screen.

It’s Mills’s retelling of a short story by Robert E. Jones — known as Bobby Jones to old-timers in Brookhaven — which details true events that happened in and around Lawrence County in 1884.

Based on Jones’s “The Outlaw, the Sheriff and the Governor,” the film is about a man accused of killing his brother and the honorable sheriff who has to bring him to justice.

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The movie, produced by Mills and Running Wild Films, makes its Mississippi premiere in Monticello, but will screen soon after in Brookhaven.

The premiere of “Blood Country” will be Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. at Lawrence County Civic Center.

The Brookhaven showing will be Oct. 21 at The Haven. Select members of the cast and crew will be in attendance to introduce and talk about the film. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Tickets are available at

It stars Jeremy London, Heather Fusari and Matt Story.

This is Marlene Cupit’s second film for Running Wild. The Brookhaven businesswoman, who founded Hurst Review Services, played a lead role in “Porches and Private Eyes.”

“Marlene plays a very different woman than she did in ‘Porches and Private Eyes,’” Mills said. “Her character’s name is Matt, based on the real life wife of Sheriff Dan Lee. She’s a tough lady, a steadfast wife.”

Mills said Matt is very different from Patsy Lynn, Cupit’s character in “Porches.”

“I was really excited to work with Marlene to create something totally different than we had before and her performance is proof of her versatility as an actress,” he said. “Audiences in Brookhaven will see her crack the whip in this one, literally, along with other great moments. I love working with her.”

Cupit found that the sheriff’s wife was a lot like her own grandmother, Christine Varnado.

“I’ve seen her work like a man and carry a gun just like Matt,” she said. “One day, I saw her pick up a block of wood and kill a rattlesnake. I was definitely impressed! She was just as much sweet and loving as she was strong. I’ve always been told since I was 6 years old, ‘You are just like Christine,’ so I feel like a lot of Matt was already an innate part of me.”

This is her second time to work with Mills, but she’s up for more.

“Travis has been kind enough to let me be a part of this fun. If something comes up he thinks I could do, I would always be willing to try,” she said.

Mills, the grandson of longtime Lincoln County Judge Donald Patterson, said he never met Bobby Jones, who has been described to the filmmaker as a local legend.

“People around here speak to his wit, his humor,” he said. “My grandfather knew him very well and was the one who introduced me to his book, ‘Mississippi Gumbo.’ It’s a fascinating read and I’m very glad that Jennifer Wright, his daughter, is getting the book back in print.”

Mills hopes to have copies available for sale in time for the premiere.

“Everyone who cares about the history of this area and the importance of storytelling should read it,” he said.

Mills wrote the movie based on one of the short stories in the book.

“I have never read a piece of writing in my life more suited for the big screen,” he said.

The Brookhaven screening for ‘Blood Country’ starts at 7 p.m.

Also that day, Running Wild Films will be screening a kung fu comedy at 1 p.m. and a documentary at 5 p.m.

Tickets for “The Curse of the Dragon Sword” are $5 for age 16 and older. Children 15 and younger are free.

This Kung Fu adventure follows a father and daughter duo as they seek to reforge the mythic Dragon Sword in order to exact revenge on a powerful warrior. Running Wild produced “The Curse of the Dragon Sword” in Boulder and Denver, Colorado, in collaboration with Blue Dragon Films.

Tickets for “Late Blossom Blues: The Leo “Bud” Welch Documentary” are $5. The highly-acclaimed documentary is about Mississippi music legend Bud Welch.

“Late Blossom Blues” follows Welch and his manager Vencie Varnado, a Gulf War Veteran, as they balance the tight rope between business and geriatrics, between jet lag and sound check. It also paints a heart-warming portrait of Welch’s small hometown of Bruce where his daily life is still untouched by his late global fame.

“Documenting the most exciting times in the life of one of the last real Bluesmen, ‘Late Blossom Blues’ is a film of historic dimension for all music-lovers. It’s a moving account of a hard working man, who, despite all the adversaries, never wavered from his passion and waited more than 70 years to finally live his dream,” Mills said.