I guess love conquers all. Well, at least in writer/director Andrew Heckler’s racially charged film “Burden.” A true to life story that explores the question: “Can a Klansman forsake the Klan, to be with the love of his life?”
Enter Mike Burden (Garrett Hedlund), a rumpled mumbling redneck, who spits tobacco and seems angst all the time. Burden was raised by the town’s head businessman and chief racist Griffin (Tom Wilkinson), who enjoys agitating black youths and reminiscing about the good old days of lynching.
Forest Whitaker stars as South Carolina Revered David Kennedy, who leads a peaceful protest when a museum opens in his town celebrating the Klu Klux Klan. The museum, dubbed The Redneck Shop, offers assorted trinkets, T-Shirts and bobbles featuring the Klan and the Southern states Stars and Bars. So be prepared, because “Burden” is layered with the squirm factor. In fact, you can’t throw a rock in this town without hitting a good-old cross-burning, a hooded Klansman or the N-word being bantered about in everyday conversation.
But alas, Burden meets Judy, (Andrea Riseborough) does not tolerate any of his racist views. Suddenly Burden’s simple life becomes complicated. Judy tells Burden to choose between her and the Klan. Of course this doesn’t sit well with Burden’s Klan buddies, or with the town’s black citizens who say Burden can’t quit something that is born within him.
Burden becomes persona non grata by the town’s white and black citizens. Rev. Kennedy is the only person who, at the risk of alienating family, takes Burden and Judy into his home protecting them from the Klan.
Whitaker leads an inspired cast, including Usher Raymond and Crystal Fox who should have had more to do in the film. It’s never fully explained why Burden changes his ways, but the filmmakers want us to go with love. So let’s run with that. I guess one can say, “Burden” is about racism. But pealing away the layers, the film punctuates social conscience and one’s integrity. Standing up and be willing to change your position and take responsibility for things you have done.
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