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Burning Sands

Rituals, traditions, and life threatening extremes come to life in this drama-filled movie depicting the life of five students pledging an African-American fraternity. The movie shows the extremes of underground hazing on a college campus during the course of “hell week.”

Burning Sands follows the initiation of Zurich “Z” Condoll (Trevor Jackson) into an elite black fraternity, Lambda Phi. The movie, debuted on Netflix March 10th, starts off showing Z and originally five other men abused and humiliated by members of Lambda Phi in an isolated part of the woods. After one pledgee drops out, each day for these young men bring out more intense obstacles to see who can survive the beatings brought on by older alumni members of the brotherhood; with one of the alumni members being the current dean of students at this fictional HBCU, Frederic Douglas University.

The story follows these five students as they endure the struggles of keeping up with school while dealing with the harsh realities of hazing; beatings, sleep deprivation, and other dangerous tasks forcing the men to prove their “worth” to the fraternity. Hazing, which is prohibited on US colleges, seems to be an often practice that serves as an initiation for young men (and women) who seek to become part of a fraternity (or sorority). For most, the practice is set out to be humiliating and demeaning and in worse and extreme cases have resulted in death. The storyline doesn’t give us much background on the individuals who are attempting to join the fraternity, what their interests are or why they decide to join pledge for a fraternity.

This movie, directed by Gerard McMurray, graduate of HBCU Howard University and member of Omega Psi Phi, Fraternity, is a contradiction of what the black fraternities stand for, which is brotherhood, leadership, and scholarship. There was a clear message throughout the film shedding light on the illegal hazing practices said to be on going by these black organizations. With midterms approaching, Z struggles with staying on top of his school assignments while trying to support his soon-to-be “brothers.”

The message is driven home when one of the pledgees is put in a situation that spirals out of control during the final day of hell week and the stakes become highly dangerous; Trying to prove his masculinity and worth to the fraternity by being badly beaten and tortured by the brothers of Lambda Phi to the point of life and death. Burdened with honoring the code of silence each fraternity keeps or standing up against the intensified violence of underground hazing, these young men must make a decision to do what they feel is morally right or stand with the brotherhood they are fighting so hard to be a part of. Burning Sands takes you on an emotional journey through the eyes of these young men and capture the raw truths of what hazing is like. Burning Sands is definitely a must see.