BURDEN is a complex story. Based on true events, the drama aims to spread a message of compassion and grace that echoes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s moving quote, "Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
We often look to King's speeches to inspire and uplift us, especially during dark times, but we also have to acknowledge why he spoke those words in the first place.
Here's where BURDEN gets complicated: The story follows Mike (Garrett Hedlund), an orphan raised within the Ku Klux Klan. The life Mike leads now is solely because of father figure and Klan leader Tom Griffin (Tom Wilkinson). Whether he believes in the doctrine or simply follows orders, Mike partakes in the Klan's violent and racist acts.
When he meets single mother Judy (Andrea Riseborough), Mike — possibly for the first time ever — is forced to examine his long-held beliefs. Ultimately, he decides to leave the hate group, but they hold a lot of power in the Southern town. Mike loses his job, his house, his car and the "family" he thought he had.
The only person willing to open their door to Mike, Judy and her son is Reverend Kennedy (Forest Whitaker), an idealistic Baptist preacher who resolves to keep the peace, even though he's been personally targeted by the Klan, including Mike in the past.
With support and love from Kennedy and eventually the all-black congregation, Mike changes his heart, and together, they work to heal their wounded community. It's the best ending we could hope for, but the path there is full of pain.
BURDEN is not an easy movie to watch, by any means. Writer/director Andrew Heckler in his debut film doesn't try to make Mike the most likable character, and Hedlund plays the part with quiet restraint — both smart choices to ground the audience in reality and allow us to feel emotions that constantly conflict with each other. The approach has already resonated with movie fans. At the premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, BURDEN won the Audience Award for U.S. Drama.
See BURDEN for yourself as the film arrives in theatres starting February 28.