Filmmaker Andrew Heckler believes that to tell a compelling and believable story, one must uncover the humanity of their subject — no matter how difficult.
That’s why, while researching for his forthcoming film “Burden,” he traveled from New York City to the town of Laurens, South Carolina, to go undercover to research the Klu Klux Klan.
“I spent a day in the Redneck Shop and the KKK Museum and got to know some of the Klansmen,” he told The Christian Post. “I told them I was a white supremacist from Chicago. They were very welcoming; almost like a college trying to recruit an athlete.”
“As much as I vehemently disagree with their rhetoric, I was able to see them and hear who they were without having to cover anything,” Heckler said. “I was able to get perspective. As unpopular as this might sound, when you take off the hood of a Klansman, there’s a person who wasn’t born a Klansman. They were people who were taught this. They were hijacked.”
“We hijack the most vulnerable,” he asserted. “Those who are economically and socially vulnerable are hijacked by these families built on hatred. Any family is better than no family. They don’t realize it’s not truly a family because families are built on love.”
It’s Heckler’s compassionate treatment of his subjects that makes “Burden” stand out from other films that attempt to portray the postwar South. His message is simple: Love, and not hate, has the power to change hearts and minds.
Set in the 1990s, “Burden” tells the story of Mike Burden, an orphan raised within the Ku Klux Klan, who opens the KKK Museum and Redneck Shop. The shop is filled with KKK paraphernalia and racist memorabilia including white-hooded Klan uniforms, a sword used by Klansmen, and photographs of lynchings.
Despite his sordid past, Mike is persuaded to leave the KKK by his girlfriend, Judy. When the Klan seeks him out for vengeance, Reverend Kennedy, the African American pastor of New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church, takes him, his girlfriend, and her son in. Thanks to the love, compassion, and kindness showed to him by those he once loathed, Mike embraces Christianity, repents of his racism, and is baptized. Symbolically, Mike gifts Reverend Kennedy the old theater that once housed the Redneck Shop and KKK Museum.
Incredibly, the film starring Forest Whitaker, Tom Wilkinson, Usher, Garrett Hedlund, Andrea Riseborough and Austin Hebert, is based on a true story. For Heckler, “Burden” is the culmination of a decades-long passion project.
“When I first heard the story, I was blown away,” Heckler recalled. “The simplicity and beauty of the story of a man who escaped the bigotry and hatred he was raised in by the love of a woman and the faith of a reverend. It’s a story of loving your enemy until he becomes your friend. It’s something we can relate to, whether it’s 1996 or 2020.”
SOURCE: The Christian Post