The Controversial Black Fraternity Hazing Flick ‘Burning Sands’ Hits Netflix Today — 5 Reasons It’s A Must Watch
Director Gerard McMurray’s feature film debut Burning Sands just hit Netflix today, and it’s already stirring up controversy.
The compelling film follows Zurich (American Crime‘s Trevor Jackson), a college student at the fictional Fredrick Douglass University. Zurich is just trying to survive Hell Week as a Lambda Phi pledge while balancing his girlfriend, social life, and education. When the trailer for the film was released a few weeks ago, many viewers were awe struck and horrified as they witnessed pledges being beaten, kicked, punched, paddled and submerged in water. However, if you base your judgments solely off of the film’s trailer, you would be missing McMurray’s entire point as well as stunning and provocative coming-of-age narrative. Here are 5 Reasons Why Burning Sands Is A Must Watch
1. The Coming-Of-Age Story
A coming-of-age story that is not based around dancing, sports or music in Black cinema is a rarity (which is why Moonlight is so important). As Zurich tries to push through Hell Week, he is forced to reconcile his own beliefs against those of the frat. In doing so, he makes significant choices that help propel him toward manhood.
2. The Vulnerability in Black Masculinity
Too often, Black men are relegated to roles of hypermasculinity. In Burning Sands, Zurich and his line brothers must learn how to trust one another. Their humanity and vulnerability are at the forefront of this film, and we see it again and again in the choices that they make and in the bonds of their brotherhood.
3. The Female Characters
In coming-of-age films that center around male protagonists, women are often relegated to the sidelines as objects of desire for the male gaze or simply used and cast aside. Burning Sands rejects that idea outright. Zurich’s girlfriend Rochon (Imani Hakim) is an active participant in her own life; quick to make her own decision and choices without regard for Zurich or the status of her relationship. Likewise, another character Toya (Nafessa Williams), shatters sexist stereotypes by being in control of not just her body but her sexuality.
4. The Normalization of Sex
Now don’t blush, but in films about fraternities and particularly in films surrounding young adults, sex is often seen as a raunchy act that is looked upon in shame. And yet in Burning Sands, McMurray is careful to normalize sex, specifically between two consenting Black young adults, a narrative that is nearly impossible to find in cinema.
5. The Thread Of Tradition Between Greek Organizations & HBCUs
Obviously, hazing is illegally, but we would be naive to believe that McMuarry got these brutal sequences out of thin air. Despite the depictions of the heinous acts on screen, the importance of Greek Organizations within Historically Black Colleges and Universities are a constant thread in the film. The brotherhoods (and sisterhoods), as well as the networks and opportunities that Black Greek Organizations have been able to cultivate, are irreplaceable. Burnings Sands simply highlights the good with the bad.
Alfre Woodard, Steve Harris, Empire’s Serayah and Moonlight’s Trevante Rhodes also star in the film. Burning Sands is now streaming on Netflix.