Former Oxonian to debut short film at upcoming OFF

Published 1:53 pm Monday, March 18, 2024

Brian Whisenant never gave up on his dream of making a film based on a play he was drawn to for several years.

“Wrath Mercy,” is based on a play and some of Whisenant’s own life experience. It tells the story of a young gay drug addict, Adam, who after a dangerous encounter with Mall, the drug dealer, meets a mysterious woman named Irina who gives him an opportunity to change his fate.

“I first saw Ben Craven’s play, ‘Wrath Mercy,’ when I was in college at the University of Southern Mississippi, all the way back in 1998. I had always imagined adapting it as a film for myself as an actor,” Whisenant said.

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After leaving Mississippi, he lived in New York City and then eventually moved to Los Angeles, trying to pursue a career in acting, during which time he became addicted to crystal meth.

In 2014, he decided to return to Oxford and went to the Haven House for treatment for his addiction.

He remained in Oxford for five years working on getting clean.

During that time, he worked at the Oxford Treatment Center as the director of community relations and as the head LGBTQIA+ Programmer for the Oxford Film Festival. He directed and acted in several Theatre Oxford productions and directed the OFF community film, “The Golden Years.”

He moved back to Los Angeles in 2019.

Around 2020, he started focusing on his dream of adapting “Wrath Mercy” into a film, combining the original play and his own life experiences.

The 20-minute short film was filmed in Coldwater in 2023 and will be shown at this year’s Oxford Film Festival.

“Glenn Payne, my co-producer, and I had several discussions about whether or not to film in Los Angeles where I had moved or Mississippi. In the end, it was important to me to tell the part of my story that took place in the South,” Whisenant said. “I was also able to hire several local actors as well as an LGBTQIA+ and allied crew, local to Mississippi.”

Whisenant is the director, writer and co-producer of the film that stars former child star Natanya Ross and Matthew Zimmerman.

“Wrath Mercy” will be shown at 2:45 p.m. on March 23 and at 2 p.m. on March 24 at Malco Theater.

The film is one of hundreds that will be shown this weekend at the Oxford Film Festival.

There are 120 narrative and documentary features and shorts, experimental films and music videos planned. The films include two feature-length documentaries and 27 short projects set in Mississippi. Other films come from the United Kingdom, Australia, China, Iceland, France and Germany.

For more information and tickets, visit

Click here to view the OFF schedule of films.