Coming to theatres from writer/director Andrew Heckler’s debut and 101 Studios comes the story of courage, change and belief when under a BURDEN.
Mike Burden (Garrett Hedlund) is a young man who came to be raised by Klu Klux Klan leader Tom Griffin (Tom Wilkinson). In the small South Carolina town it puts a divide between the white and African American community with Reverend Kennedy (Forest Whitaker) keeping the peace.
Mike works repossessing electronics from people who are behind in their payments along with friend Clint (Austin Hebert). That is how he meets Judy (Andrea Riseborough) and after hearing her young son will be devastated not to see the Nascar races on the television, Mike makes arrangements for them to keep it. Yet, when seeing classmate Clarence (Usher Raymond), he has no problem taking his television.
Tom decides to open up a museum celebrating the history of the KKK in an historic movie theatre which sends the Reverend and most of the town into shock. Mike tries not to bring to much attention to his involvement because he truly begins to care for Judy and wants to have a life with her. Tom notices and isn’t beyond making his own mark with Judy’s son.
As the Reverend and townspeople protest the museum, Tom makes a request of Mike that forces him to make a decision. Turning away from the KKK, the Reverend decides that it is time to replace hate with love and offers to help Mike both physically and emotionally.
But it isn’t going to be easy to step away from the only life he’s known and there are those who are going to make sure Mike suffers every step.
Hedlund as Mike is a man who has consistently stood by the leaders, he feels gave him a family. There is a part of him that remembers friendship with Clarence and is torn between the heart that knows what is right and turning away from a ‘family’. Hedlund is shy when it comes to his feelings and frightening when his rage kicks in. There are scenes of brilliance where he is in pain to speak and the final scene where his face says it all.
Whitaker as Reverend Kennedy is a man who tries to keep the peace in town even if there are small battles in his own home. Once he sees the museum, there is no question that he must do whatever it takes to keep it from becoming a permanent part of their town. Whitaker is strong in this role and the scenes with Hedlund are powerful and healing for both characters.
Riseborough as Judy is a woman who doesn’t take any nonsense from Mike or from KKK leader Tom. She doesn’t believe as Mike does yet there is something about him that she sees a chance for his life to change. Raymond as Clarence remembers a friendship with Mike and believes that there is something more for him on the other side of the KKK tracks. He believes that given a chance, Mike can be saved from those who want to destroy him.
Other cast include Crystal Fox as Janice Kennedy, Anna Colwell as Molly, Jason Davis as Jameson, Dexter Darden as Kelvin Kennedy, Charles Green as Horace King, Joshua Burge as Ronny, Jeff Pope as Cooper and Jessejames Locorriere as Dale and Tess Harper as Hazel.
BURDEN is a story written by director Andrew Heckler after meeting the real Reverend Kennedy. Heckler read about the museum in an article and decided to pen the story from Kennedy’s account. The script was written in 1998 but has taken Heckler twenty years to make the film and this is his directorial debut.
This is a story of reality, redemption and the belief that the heart can let go of wrong and embrace positive changes. The film also deals with the twisted beliefs of a group of towns people who believe so much that they are right that hurting those who get in their way is of no consequence or guilt.
The cast brings out the story that shows the Reverends side of fight and all the frustrations that come with it. They are angry and afraid but not so much that they would allow what is happening at the museum to continue without a fight. Having lived in a small southern town, I can tell you that the believability of this story is 100%.
This may be 2020 but that doesn’t mean the belief that the character of Mike was raised with is gone because it isn’t, and it isn’t only found in small southern towns. What BURDEN does bring into focus the ability to talk about these issues openly and make us all aware that 20 years ago a group of people tried to open a museum that horrified a community.
I see BURDEN as a teachable film that has the greatest potential to reach more than just a theatre audience. It is so powerful and far reaching that it is clear why the film received a standing ovation when it was shown at the Sundance Film Festival.
In the end – only love can drive out hate!