EXCLUSIVE: Penguin Random House division Convergent has just won a competitive auction for the true story told in Burden, the Andrew Heckler-scripted and -directed drama that premieres this weekend at Sundance. Plans already are being made to get the book ready to coincide with the film’s release, the first time I can recall that happening for an acquisition title at a film festival. The book was written by Courtney Hargrave, inspired by the film and Heckler’s screenplay.
The film is based on an inspiring true story of hope for overcoming racial hate in America. It centers on Mike Burden (played by Garrett Hedlund), a rising leader in the Ku Klux Klan and founder of the first KKK museum, who attempts to break away from the Klan when the woman he falls in love with urges him to leave for the better life they can build together. When the Klan seeks Mike out for vengeance, an African-American reverend named David Kennedy (Forest Whitaker) takes in Mike, his girlfriend and her son, accepting them into their community in the face of tremendous risk. Burden and Kennedy form an unlikely friendship as Mike moves from a life of ignorance and bigotry to one of love and tolerance. Andrea Riseborough, Tom Wilkinson, and Usher Raymond also star.
Heckler developed the book project with Dallas Buyers Club producer Robbie Brenner and Ready Player One producer Dan Farah, who is exec producer, when they felt there was even more story to tell.
“In a time when the world has become so polarized and divided by ethnicity, race and religion, Burden is the true story of one man’s struggle to overcome a lifetime of senseless hate,” Heckler said. “A story where he must face his sworn racial enemy and find a path to tolerance and redemption. It is a story about Faith — not religious faith or blind faith, but Faith in humanity, Faith in oneself and Faith in doing what is just and right, appealing deeply to the good within each of us. It is a story that locates the present world’s ethnic dilemmas within an individual and his power to combat senseless ignorance and bigotry. It is all of these things. But at its core, Burden is a love story, and it is Love that solves all that ails us. Hatred, both along ethnic and religious lines, has cast a dark shadow on our society for far too long, but we can eradicate shadows by shining a light on them. Hopefully, Burden can become a part of that light.”
The book deal was brokered by Farah’s Farah Films & Management, and Foundry Literary + Media partner Yfat Reiss Gendell. WME is representing the film’s distribution rights at Sundance.