Burden is a new historical drama-filled film starring Garrett Hedlund, Forest Whitaker, Tom Wilkinson, and Andrea Riseborough.
The Los Angeles premiere happened right outside the Silver Screen Theater Thursday evening in West Hollywood at the Pacific Design Center. Burden is a true story of compassion, grace and is an example of how one can conquer hate with love.
It had been over 15 years since first-time Director Andrew Heckler stumbled across the touching story of Mike Burden played by Garrett Hedlund, a former KKK Klansmen and Reverend Kennedy played by Forest Whitaker. The film takes place in South Carolina giving the audience a glimpse into the often dangerous lives of African Americans living in the south in the ‘60s and the Ku Klux Klan’s controversial belief system.
Andrew wanted to be sure that the story he presented was based on fact, but filming this movie in South Carolina was not an option for him. He made the conscious decision to film in a very small town in Georgia instead. “So most of the people are still alive and what we realized is that these wounds are very deep,” says Heckler. He knew that re-opening these wounds that had yet to heal was a risky move. “When the Reverend came down to the set in Georgia and he saw the scenes, he had to go off in the woods for a while and just sit by himself.”
Emotions ran high while filming Burden due to the language and tough situations the cast was often put in. Clint, played by Austin Hebert known for his role as Officer Roberts in Detroit says that being a part of films such as this one can affect your mentality as an actor. “You just kind of have to figure out what’s behind the hate and why the characters or people do that, why they hide behind that, how that empowers you and gives you an identity.” He says that therapy may not be a bad idea, and loving yourself is really important after taking on such an intense role.
Forest Whitaker who stepped into the role of Reverend Kennedy was not present at Thursday’s premiere, but when Crystal Fox, who plays Janice Kennedy was asked what made her say yes to this film, she said, “First of all, the opportunity to play the wife of Forest Whitaker is one.” She felt honored to tell a true story of such importance. Janice was the Reverend’s support system and voice of reason when he needed it most. Playing a character who is a real person was not hard for her at all. “Because it was the truth, because we’re telling true stories, nothing was really hard for me because I was honoring someone else’s truth.”
Reverend Kennedy did grace the carpet, and although he is a major part of the story, he didn’t feel that this movie was about him. “The story is supposed to be about Mike and Judy Burden and I think that’s who everybody needs to be talking to.” Although hated and disrespected by Mike Burden and the other Ku Klux Klan members throughout the film, Kennedy maintained patience. He took Mike and his wife Judy in when they fell on hard times.
Being a religious man who grew up in the church, he relied on his faith to love, not hate. “The scriptures need to come alive. Most people talk about it, but they don’t live it and sometimes God puts us in situations where He wants to show the world who He is, what He is about and we just need to find our way to love and we fight when it’s time to fight.” According to Reverend Kennedy, hatred and racism are “disruptive and they have no future. But love and kindness and justice and mercy, they are constructive and they have eternity.”
A fun party followed at Alice at The 1Hotel West Hollywood.
Burden is now playing in select theaters!