Starring Garrett Hedlund, Forest Whitaker, Andrea Riseborough, Tom Wilkinson, Usher Raymond, Tess Harper, Neva Howell, Crystal R. Fox, Dexter Darden, Austin Hebert, Tian Richards, Melissa Youngblood, Jason Davis, Anna Colwell, Tia Hendricks, Charles Green, Jeff Pope, Joshua Burge, Robin Dyke, Devin Bright, Roman Spink, Fiona Domenica and The Sheltons.
Screenplay by Andrew Heckler.
Directed by Andrew Heckler.
Distributed by 101 Studios. 129 minutes. Rated R.
They say that we are not born with hate; it is something that is taught. However, once you have been steeped in hatred, can you learn love and tolerance? And does your new open point of view excuse the bad that you have done previously?
These are just a few of the ethical dilemmas explored in Burden, a based-on-a-true-story drama about a Klansman who learns to love through a new family and tries to sever his ties with his family and friends who are still in the Ku Klux Klan. This unexpected split leads to violence, homelessness, poverty and ostracism.
The guy’s life is finally turned back around when he is invited to stay with a conflicted but pure black reverend, who faces the ire of his family and his congregation when he decides to take the man and his family in, in an attempt to save his soul and undo the hatred in his heart.
Surprisingly, the title Burden does not come from Rudyard Kipling’s classic poem of American imperialism and racism, “The White Man’s Burden.” (I have to admit, going into the movie I assumed it was a reference.) Actually, Burden is the last name of the main character, which would seem to be a little too on the nose, except for the fact that it really is the actual guy’s name. Titles move in mysterious ways.
The story revolves around a true-life event in Laurens, SC, when the shuttered local Echo Theater was bought in the 1990s by White nationalists and converted into “The Redneck Shop and KKK Museum.” The gift shop sold a variety of questionable items, including divisive t-shirts, lynching dolls, confederate paraphernalia and Klan robes. In the back room was the “museum,” which celebrated the Klan’s checkered history.
This opening was quite a shot across the bow in this culturally diverse small town.
Mike Burden (Garrett Hedlund) is essentially the adopted son of the local Grand Wizard, and the mastermind of the store, named Tom Griffin. Tom Wilkinson does a terrific job in the role, reminding us how often evil can be cloaked in good-natured normalcy.
When Burden becomes involved with a local single mother named Judy (Andrea Riseborough), who is good friends of an African American childhood friend of Burden’s named Clarence Brooks (played by singer Usher Raymond), Burden slowly starts to doubt the hate and bigotry he had always embraced.
When he left the Klan, because of the group’s long tentacles in the town Burden and Judy are left jobless and homeless. It is only through the intervention of a black minister, Reverend Kennedy (Forest Whitaker) that their lives are saved.
Burden is a very complicated, imperfect hero. He does some horrific things – both while in the Klan and even after he has left. At some points you wonder if he has had an epiphany, or if he is merely keeping that side of himself in check to make his girlfriend happy.
Still, due to some terrific performances – particularly by Hedlund, Riseborough and Wilkinson – the film does pull up the veil (or pull off the hood) on a shrouded portion of society.
In a world where racial hatred has been growing by leaps and bounds over recent years, Burden takes a cleansing look at the problem. It’s far from a perfect film, in fact it could have been a lot better than it is, but it’s certainly worth seeing.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2020 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 28, 2020.