By Kirsten Coachman

“Just believe in what you’re doing and be passionate about it.”

For Burden writer-director Andrew Heckler, those are not just words of advice; during the past 20-plus years of working on his feature directorial debut as a first-time filmmaker, it was a way of life.

Winner of the Audience Award at both the Sundance Film Festival and Nantucket Film Festival in 2018, Burden is a film about the power of love and redemption. It is based on the true story of Mike Burden (Garrett Hedlund), a rough around the edges grand dragon in the Ku Klux Klan, who plays a role in the opening of the Redneck Shop and KKK Museum in Laurens, South Carolina. After meeting Judy (Andrea Riseborough), a single mother who does not stand for the Klan’s beliefs or rhetoric, Mike begins to question the ideology that he has stood for and decides to ultimately walk away from the organization. Homeless and looking for work, a chance run-in with local activist Rev. David Kennedy (Forest Whitaker), who had led peaceful protests in front of the museum’s storefront, results in the religious leader inviting Mike and his family into his home. The duo’s unlikely bond is Mike’s saving grace as his ongoing tensions with the Klan come to a head. 

“You hear this all the time, ‘the incredible true story,’ but this is an incredible true story,” Heckler said speaking by phone alongside Academy Award-nominated producer Robbie Brenner (“Dallas Buyers Club”) from the BraveMaker Film Festival HQ in Redwood City, California, last month. “It’s about how a couple of people in a congregation that did something without knowing how deep it could be or how meaningful the action [was] worth their time.”

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