Thursday, February 1, 2018

Sundance with Abe: Burden

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the fifth time. I’m seeing as many movies as I can each day and will post reviews of each as I can.

Directed by Andrew Heckler
U.S. Dramatic Competition Audience Award Winner

It can be hard to believe the hate that continues to exist in the world, though recent events both in the United States and elsewhere have served as a reminder that intolerance and discrimination are still rampant. Before the establishment of civil rights institutions and laws tailored towards equality, it was simply a matter of a difference of opinion, one that was horrifically tolerated and even legally enforced at times. In modern days, the hope would be that hate is the outlier, and it’s jarring to see instances of seemingly normal people existing in present-day society spewing something that feels like it should have gone out of fashion centuries earlier.

Mike Burden (Garrett Hedlund) lives in 1996 South Carolina in a small town, working on collections and repossessions for his father figure, Tom Griffin (Tom Wilkinson), who has just achieved his goal of opening a KKK museum celebrating their continued membership in the Ku Klux Klan. A local African-American preacher, Reverend Kennedy (Forest Whitaker), is horrified by this celebration of a dark chapter in his country’s history, and organizes regular protests to take place outside the shop. When Burden meets and falls for Judy (Andrea Riseborough), she forces him to make a choice between her and the Klan, putting him at odds with everyone he’s grown up with and into circles he never would have deigned to step into because of the hatred in his heart.

This film’s title references the last name of its protagonist but also signifies more about what allegiance to the KKK really represents. When Burden opts to renounce the Klan so that he can remain with Judy and her young son, he is subject to cruel treatment by his former friends, who own the local police department and have considerable influence. They see any attempt to stifle their dissemination of their philosophy as an infringement on their rights to recall their history, and demonize and incite anyone who would try to tell them to stop spreading hate. Speaking about the process of making the film, director Andrew Heckler shared that they had to recreate the shop in its entirety, which was visited nearly every day by those attempting to browse and buy from what they thought was a real memorabilia store.

Director Andrew Heckler discusses the film

This is Hedlund’s second straight buzzworthy Sundance film about a man standing up to racial intolerance, this time in more modern times and starting out on the wrong side of things. His turn is considerably more excitable and intense, paired with Riseborough’s recreation of this overwhelmed woman who just couldn’t understand how the man she came to love could ascribe to this worldview. The film tells an interesting story which has its moments, but overall this Sundance Audience Award winner, which received a standing ovation following its screening, is a lengthy film with a message more powerful than much of its content.


No comments: