At this past week’s Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, “Burden,” the movie which tells a story from a specific Laurens event in the 1990s, was the winner of the Audience Award for U.S. Dramatic films. Presented by Acura, it was the top audience award winner among the top 16 U.S. Dramatic films in the festival competition.
Directed by screenwriter Andrew Heckler, “Burden” features Forest Whitaker as Laurens’ Rev. David Kennedy, the pastor of New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church located between Laurens and Clinton, and follows Garrett Hedlund, who plays the character of Mike Burden. Andrea Riseborough plays his girlfriend, Judy and Usher plays a young man in the city.
In Laurens County, Michael Burden went by Gene Burden when he was a child in Gray Court but began going by Mike when he returned in the 1990s after living away for many years. He became deeply involved with the klan while working as an employee at the KKK Museum and Redneck Shop. Open for several years in downtown Laurens, the business had been the source of many protests, from locals, such as Kennedy’s congregation, and those from outside the county.
While many details have changed in the film’s storyline, the film presents the story of redemption, however, when Kennedy and his congregation take in Burden, Judy and her young child when they end up homeless. The film shows Burden’s progression from racial hatred to tolerance. Eventually Burden passes on to Kennedy what he’d been given by the store owner before his exile – the deed to the property.
Rev. Kennedy attended the final weekend of the Sundance Film Festival, which concluded today, Sunday, Jan. 28.
Look for more in the Wednesday issue of The Laurens County Advertiser.
Photo of Garrett Hedlund in Burden courtesy Sundance Film Fest.