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    The bourbon boom has hit the big screen.

    On Feb. 7, Xscape Theatre's Blankenbaker 16 location in Louisville will host a special screening of “Bullitt County,” a moody thriller shot mostly in Southern Indiana and Kentucky that premiered at the Austin Film Festival last year. Filmmaker David McCracken and producer Josh Riedford will attend the showing and take questions afterward. It’s part of a smattering of regional screenings meant to showcase fruits of filmmaking labor in the place that bore those fruits, not just on the 2018 festival circuit.

    McCracken and Riedford have been making movies together since, well… It’s hard to tell. “We did a play together in high school,” Riedford says.

    “Was it the play I put on?” McCracken replies.

    “That was the first project. What about the first film? Was that the one you shot in the elevator?”

    “It’s been so long I don’t even remember,” McCracken says.

    The Evansville natives roomed together in college. McCracken was the best man at Riedford’s wedding. Listening to them talk about their long friendship, you could easily mistake them for characters in their movie. I don’t want to spoil the suspense, so I’ll give you the SparkNotes version: It’s 1977, and a group of friends has reunited ahead of their buddy’s wedding. (McCracken plays the best man.) They've fallen out of touch over the last 10 years, leaving behind a dark secret, and they hope revisiting a distillery they toured in the good old days will rekindle things. But it turns out the distillery is a winery now. Rather than give up and go home, the group ends up searching the Bourbon Trail for treasure buried during the Prohibition Era. Can they find and reclaim the past out in the woods, the autumn leaves swirling, Riedford notes, in a palette of reds, yellows and ambers reminiscent of Kentucky’s favorite vice? As famed character actor Richard Riehle says in this trailer, in a voice that could freeze an Old Fashioned: “Anything buried out there is meant to stay buried.”

    McCracken and Riedford have not heeded his warning. In a way, “Bullitt County” explores their own pasts. You can trace the movie’s eye for nature back to their college camping trips. “We knew we wanted a farmhouse because both of our grandmas lived in farmhouses,” McCracken says. The small town of New Harmony, IN, provided a nostalgic backdrop. “It looks like it’s straight out of the 70s,” the pair tells me.

    Without the local community, “Bullitt County” might not have been possible. The classic cars in the film came from the collections of locals who had heard about it. One man learned of “Bullitt County” during a bourbon tasting and offered his recently vacated farmhouse in Huntingburg, IN as a set. “Those kinds of things don’t happen in Los Angeles,” Riedford says.

    McCracken and Riedford toured some distilleries themselves before filming the movie in the fall of 2016. “I couldn’t stomach whiskey because of a bad experience in college,” Rieford says. “Now I don’t know how many different bourbons I have on my shelf, and I can tell the difference between them. It’s such a wonderful thing.” Indeed it is, Riedford. Visiting Kentucky will go much better for you than it did for the characters in “Bullitt County.”

     

    Cover photo: "Bullit County" // Facebook

    Dylon Jones's picture

    About Dylon Jones

    Dylon Jones is a poet, essayist and journalist based in Louisville, Kentucky, where he serves as web editor of Louisville Magazine. His narrative journalism has earned him first-place awards in feature writing and profile reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2015, Sarabande Books awarded him the Flo Gault Poetry Prize. His poems appear in Tinderbox Poetry Journal and The Collagist.

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