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Laurens’ 1990s story, ‘Burden’ among top dramas at Sundance Film Fest

Laurens, SC – Rev. David Kennedy of New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church in Laurens left this morning to be in Utah in time to see the Sundance Film Festival’s final showings of “Burden” the film which is among the 16 films in the U.S. Dramatic Film Competition.

Starring Forest Whitaker as Kennedy and Garrett Hedlund in the role of former Laurens County resident Mike “Gene” Burden, the film is an adaptation of events that took place in Laurens about 1996 when Burden worked as an employee in the Redneck Shop and began mentoring under his employer as a Klansman. When he attempted to leave the Klan at his girlfriend’s request he was fired and the couple and her young child were left homeless. Kennedy and his congregation stepped in to minister to the young couple.

Described by Sundance as being based on a “real story,” the storyline of the film has significant changes to the actual events but maintains the message of forgiveness and redemption and is among the 16 Dramatic U.S. Films in that competition.

Some reviewers are listing “Burden” among the top ten, and film reviewer Sean P. Means features the film at the top of his film review column in The Salt Lake Tribune.

 Rev. Kennedy was supposed to leave earlier in the week for the annual Utah-based festival but he remained here for various commitments, according to Frances Williams, the administrative assistant at the Highway 76 church, located between Laurens and Clinton. Kennedy was to be leaving today in time for the final showings of the film at the Sundance Film FestivalFriday night or Saturday morning, and Kennedy planned to return Sunday.

Prior to the filming of “Burden,” Whitaker made a trip to Laurens to meet Kennedy and visit the church one Sunday morning, and members of the congregation participated in the filming of a choir scene during filming in Georgia.

According to the Sundance website , the film by writer/director Andrew Heckler “… is an unflinching examination of the neo-Confederate heritage of hatred and a moving character study about the hard work of undoing racism. Through Hedlund’s nuanced performance and Heckler’s sensitive exploration of class, race, and family—both genetic and adopted—this cautiously optimistic vision of social progress is at once a reflection on the stubborn roots of American racism and an urgent window into contemporary conflicts in the age of the alt-right.”

For more information on “Burden” and other films in the dramatic category, so to

Film photo by Michael Muller | courtesy Sundance Institute.

1 Comment

  1. Sandra Johnson on February 22, 2018 at 12:17 am

    Hello my name is Sandra Johnson, and how I wished that I had gotten a chance to meet meet with Mr Whittaker.
    I would tell him the stuff the whites here in Laurens County don’t want to talk about. Laurens County is one of those good ole boys county. Just like the crazy c**p that going in Washington DC. Well we got it here also.
    Mr. Whittaker I’ve got a story to tell about how white collar crimes drys up the economy turn once healthy communities into drugs and alcohol infestation. Baby’s having babies. Many of these kids are going to die and have never visited any other state I will be waiting to hear for you.
    Sandra Johnson

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