Burden Review – Powerful Engrossing Character Driven Performances

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Burden, from Unburdened Entertainment, presents the story of Mike Burden, a Grand Wizard in the Klu Klux Klan, who through love and the power of Jesus Christ, left his life of hate behind and began sowing a new crop.

Directed and written by Andrew Heckler, Burden stars Tom Wilkinson, Garret Hedlund, Forest Whitaker, Usher Raymond, Andre Riseborough, Crystal Fox, Tess Harper, Austin Hebert, Dexter Darden, and Roman Spink.


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The film opens unassumingly with Mike Burden, played by Garret Hedlund, along with Clint Griffin, played by Austin Hebert, and a friend Cooper, played by Jeff Pope, swinging sledgehammers, breaking up the walls, and pulling the concession stand out as they, along with Tom Griffin, played by Tom Wilkinson, prepare to help the brotherhood stand strong in these days of compromise.

A couple of days later, the trio and Mr. Griffin are standing outside ready to display the banners and for the first time allow the public to see the newest addition to the downtown. As they gather together, Mike pulls the paper off the marquee and a blood red confederate flag unfurls and in red letters the words, "Klu Klux Klan Museum Open to the Public" boldly, with pride, is printed on the outside.

It takes a moment to digest as until this moment in the film, we knew it was a small South Carolina town, the type of town that suffered worse than others when the only factory shut down, and the type of town where deep seeded, race hatred was generational.

In a flash the men are congratulating themselves, the horrors of lynching’s, cross burning, race fueled violence, was non-existent. Life was what it was and for these men, today, they were celebrating their proud heritage.

Mike and Clint worked Repo Construction and as the town was in a recession, it was their jobs to collect the televisions, stereos, and anything else on the list. When the repo man is at the door, everyone has a sob story, a reason why in hopes of gaining a little time and sympathy. On this day, they are collecting from Judy, played by Andrea Riseborough, who walks in when Mike is preparing to leave with the TV.


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Suddenly, Mike went from repo man to gentleman and Judy kept her television. It is at this point that the film shifts. Mike, who is also a grand wizard in the KKK Chapter, is sold to the brotherhood, loyal, faithful and dedicated to its beliefs.

Tom Griffin, the Imperial Wizard for the chapter, has been like a father to Mike and is closer to him then his own son. During a meeting, he announces he is deeding the theater, the KKK Museum building to Mike, instead of his own son.

We soon find that Brotherhood and love are not the same and obviously do not produce the same emotions. As Mike explains he wants to move in with Judy and be the man of the house. The changes are subtle, and disconcerting as Judy is not a part of the Klan and refuses to tolerate the principles or allow her son, Dex, played by Roman Spink, to be indoctrinated.

As love is breaking through the years of mental conditioning, the museum has been targeted by Reverend Kennedy, played by Forest Whitaker. He and his wife, Janice, played by Crystal Fox, and their congregation, are on a collision course with Tom and the brotherhood.

Burden, the true story of the transformation of Mike Burden, is a testament to the power of love and to the redemption power of Jesus Christ.


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I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised when an agonizingly emotional story that is so deeply provoking is told with an accuracy and precision that has one riveted to the screen. Each performance, from every talent, is masterful. And yet, I was surprised.

Realism, authenticity, genuineness. More than simply following directions, it is the mannerisms, the physicality, the abandonment to the material as challenging as it is, especially in modern day Hollywood when words can cause the end of one’s career, embracing truths, moments which resurrect these vivid and hurtful reminders of past hatred, performances that resonate with a season only to find the day not so distant.


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Burden is engrossing, it captures the attention from the moment the confederate flag falls in bright, vivid red and pulls you into this story, with all its emotions, from the distressing valleys to the peaks and its glory.

Opening in theaters everywhere March 6, 2020. See it.

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