[1] In January 2017, Common boarded the film as an executive producer and will contribute an original song to the film. In January 2016, it was announced Gerard McMurray would direct the film, from a screenplay by himself and Christine Berg, while Stephanie Allain, Jason Michael Berman of Mandalay Pictures, Reginald Hudlin and Shawn Knapp will serve as producers on the film alongside Netflix. I had the character speak those words throughout the process to try to draw a correlation between the time when Frederick Douglass was a slave and the ways that people might still be treating each other. This support is evidenced in the forms of mentorship, familial support when a loved one passes away and even financial assistance for textbooks. Jackson gives a solid and charismatic leading performance. During one of Burning Sands’ many harrowing scenes of fraternity hazing, one of the protagonist’s would-be brothers stares him down and asks, “Why are you here?” Zurich (Trevor Jackson) responds with the canned frat propaganda he knows is expected of him, but when pressed further, he doesn’t have an answer. The pledge class learns the brotherhood mottos and bonds together because of or despite moral and physical hazing. Imad Pasha covers film. For example, Burning Sands could be used to start a discussion about how pledges going into financial debt is antithetical to the promotion of economic empowerment in the Black community. To the viewer who is unaffiliated with the Divine Nine, the film may seem like a factual account of what secretly takes place when a person pledges a fraternity or sorority. A level of sadism is to be expected in a story about underground frat hazing—it’s kind of the point—but here their presentation rarely goes deeper than that. "It's not my biopic," McCurray insisted. By closing this banner, scrolling on this page, clicking a link or continuing to browse otherwise, you agree to the use of cookies. We don’t have to just follow the norms or traditions. Zurich is asked to weigh in on the Willie Lynch letter. There's a real connection between young and old, and it's not all bad. Even Professor Hughes (in an almost cameo role by Alfre Woodard), who seems to want to look out for Zurich, makes no real attempt to sway him from his path. Part of the problem is that, while Zurich himself is well realized, the script by Christine Berg and first-time director Gerard McMurray doesn’t service the supporting cast nearly as well. When I came up with that scene I knew I had to show I wasn't making a film about people getting they butts whipped all the time. That makes for a serious wasted opportunity. Although the film has missing pieces, and should not be taken to represent all Black fraternities and sororities, there are parts of the film that are great teaching points possibly resulting in realistic, deep dive conversations. [2], The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2017. While Burning Sands may be a new movie, hazing in Black fraternities is not. Zurich is one of a handful of hopefuls pledging Lambda Lambda Phi at the fictional Frederick Douglass university. It is even possible that there are chapters that have actually done all of the things seen in the film. I wanted to definitely tell all the aspects of it: the good, the bad, and ugly to show the polarity of how these things could be. Look, educators use film clips all the time to illustrate a point. I'm a proud member of my fraternity and I'm not trying to do or say anything bad. Actually, it almost seems like it took multiple hazing headlines and combined them into the movie. The reality is there are chapters who may participate in an underground process who do not feel the need to beat, spit in someone’s face, or have sex with women to bring in new members. In the film, McCurray introduces us to Zurich, a grounded and conflicted pledge played by Trevor Jackson. is a doctoral candidate studying the factors that contribute to the development of culture in student groups and effective strategies for cultivating change within student groups. This could have transformed “Burning Sands” from a simple hazing story to a complex and compelling narrative about race. We're an independent, student-run newsroom. In the opening scene of Gerard McMurray’s “Burning Sands,” Netflix’s newest film, we find six young, Black college students driving into the forest at the crack of dawn to get beaten and verbally abused by an older brother of. What’s the appeal? A list of fundraisers you can support right now. Zurich takes out his cell phone and calls his dad, realizing why his father never joined the fraternity, and the movie ends. Everybody's not like a crazy monster beating the hell out of people. David Wharton is a journalist and film critic with over 15 years of experience. Why these things motivate him is more opaque. The truth is that looking back I might see the wrong in what I did, or what was done to me, but I only talk about how it made me a better person. Ultimately, it feels like a huge loss on McMurray’s part. You spoke about trying show the good sides of Greek organizations in the film as well. I wanted to tell a story that dealt with fraternity subculture at an HBCU. The first moment that the film feels viscerally real is in the climax, when things spiral out of control during the culminating “hell night.” That is the moment the film comes alive; the previous staticity explodes into emotional response. In fact, nothing does — not the violence, losing his girlfriend, falling behind in classes or the multitude of unanswered calls from his father. I wanted to incorporate that because I wanted something that would warm people's hearts. It is ok to be passionate about an issue or topic. All rights reserved. It happens with fraternities but also different types of organizations at schools. Advances in neuroscience teach us that trauma can literally rewire the brain making things seem “normal” that really aren’t, and causing us to repress memories until triggered. Does it expose the secret (or not so secret) “underground” pledging-hazing new member process? I had to really show those things. He is a proud member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.  Twitter – @sheedyali @harborinstitute | racromwell@theharborinstitute.com, Reality Star Sues Delta Sigma Theta for Kicking Her Out of Sorority, Gerard McMurray Hopes ‘Burning Sands’ Will Spark a Conversation in the Black Greek Community, Sneak Peek: Netflix’s ‘Burning Sands’ Give Us Another Look, First Trailer for Netflix’s ‘Burning Sands’ Gets Black Twitter Talking, Syreeta N. Greene, Suzette Walden Cole, & Rasheed Ali Cromwell. He lives in Texas, where he works as the online editor of DSNews.com, Stream 2020 U.S. election results: Where to watch live, Liverpool live stream: Stream Atalanta vs Liverpool live in Champions League, Real Madrid live stream: How to stream Real Madrid vs Inter Milan live, ’ many harrowing scenes of fraternity hazing, one of the protagonist’s would-be brothers stares him down and asks, “Why are you here?” Zurich (Trevor Jackson) responds with the canned frat propaganda he knows is expected of him, but when pressed further, he doesn’t have an answer. In the context of Burning Sands, what are some ways that folks can get free from that mentality and behavior? There is some information about the possibility of members utilizing the tactics learned from civil rights sit-in trainings to prepare pledges for the next phase of the movement. Still, this brief performance isn’t enough to make up for the lack of character development throughout the movie. Researchers from various fields ranging from public health to higher education agree that strategic educational preventive efforts are what reduce risky behaviors. It is possible that all of the incidents have occurred with some chapters at some point in time. It’s bound to have a combination of glorified party sequences and moments of brutal, dramatic torture. It shows the life that exists outside of the fraternity on campus, and speaks to the larger professional network of brotherhood.