BURDEN – A Review By Gadi Elkon

Actor Andrew Heckler dives into the Director’s chair with his feature debut, BURDEN.  Here is my review of the film.

BURDEN tells the incredible true story of Michael “Mike” Burden (Garrett Hedlund), an ardent young member of the South Carolina Ku Klux Klan who rose to the rank of Grand Dragon – and walked away from all of it with the help of a new love and an unlikely ally, the African American religious leader and social activist Reverend David Kennedy (Forest Whitaker). The film’s cast additionally includes Tom Wilkinson, Andrea Riseborough, Tess Harper, and Crystal Fox. The film also stars Usher.

The story seems so unbelievable but as we see the impact poverty has on “Mike” Burden and his new family the more reality sets in for this film.  Director Andrew Heckler allows a more calm pace to unravel our story of overcoming one’s racists upbringing.  Burden’s life switch is pushed by his unwavering love Judy (Andrea Riseborough).  Hedlund and Riseborough have tremendous chemistry and mixed in with the perfect casting of Forest Whitaker, as Reverend David Kennedy, we are left with a hidden gem of a film.  Crystal Fox and Dexter Darden play Reverend Kennedy wife and son respectfully.  This tight knit family is forced to deal with incredible odds and their strength is a really important element of the film.

The cinematography by Jeremy Rouse highlights the rural beauty of South Carolina as well as capturing the impact poverty has on this community.  The way in which Heckler and Rouse and have visually tackled this slow burning film allows for the audience to sink into the sorrow.  This slow approach gives off enough sentimentality to keep interest and open up for some powerful emotional sequences.  Usher’s character Clarence Brooks is a pivotal figure but sadly the film seems to have left the connection to Mike on the back burner.  We are told about their childhood, but a few scenes of them would have added another layer of sorrow.  The abrupt ending also hinder the film a bit, but the way in which we are shown the real life figures helps recover the emotional ties to the movie.

Dickon Hinchliffe score and the added music touches, especially two Eddie Vedder songs (!!!), really add a much needed layer to the movie.  Along with the rugged look the music hammers home to way in which years of poverty infect the emotional resonance of the black and white communities.  The long racist history is the cloud of fog that never wavers from the South Carolina setting.

Burden is an ambitious film for tackling such a dramatic true story.  Learning of the amazing way in which the power of love truly did conquer all is a much needed film experience for our torn country.


BURDEN – 3.5 Stars.

Directed by: Andrew Heckler

Written by: Andrew Heckler

Rated R

Running Time: 1h 57min


Limited Release: March 6th

Starring: Garrett Hedlund, Forest Whitaker, Tom Wilkinson, Andrea Riseborough, Tess Harper, Usher Raymond, Crystal Fox, and Dexter Darden.


The Selig Rating Scale:

5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.

4 Stars – Good movie

3 Stars – OK movie

2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.

1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.

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