Where Is the Brotherhood? A ‘Burning Sands’ Review


Anyone who knows me know I cannot stand the depictions of Black Greek letter organizations pledging process displayed in movies and televisions shows. It’s usually over the top or not at all accurate. Yet I still give them a chance and watch them anyway and get mad that I wasted my time watching the travesty fall apart on my television screen. Burning Sands was no different. But not for the obvious reasons. For a reason much bigger than hazing.

Burning Sands follows Zurich and his six line brothers during their hell week before being initiated into the fictional fraternity Lambda Phi. During their hell week Zurich and his line brothers endure some very disturbing “right-of-passages” for initiation, which ends in one of them dropping line, one getting a fractured rib, and another taken to the hospital. The film ends in an awful cliffhanger, leaving viewers not knowing if Zurich and his line brothers actually became members of Lambda Phi or if the person who is taken to the hospital is okay.

Of course, what has people talking is the hazing throughout the film. I have my own personal opinions being that I have gone through my own pledging process. But the hazing is not what bothers me about the film. It’s the lack of brotherhood not being shown. Regardless of the hazing, your pledging process is supposed to teach you brotherhood/sisterhood. The director, Gerard McMurray, portrays the film as if brotherhood doesn’t mean anything, that the whole reason men join fraternities is for the fun of it and to fit in. I can only speak from my male friends’ experiences but they didn’t go through their hazing process just to gain letters. They gained brothers for life and self-discovery.

McMurray focused so much on the pledging process that he forgets the key reason why people endure certain types of hazing. For example, during a part in the film one of the Zurich’s line brothers, Square, asks him what his real name is and Zurich didn’t even know. How can you be going through a strenuous pledge process and not know your own line brother’s real name? That doesn’t make sense and it’s unrealistic. Unless you’re pledging with 100 other people, there should be no reason why you don’t know your line brother’s real name.

Burning Sands is supposed to be based on McMurray’s pledging process. If his process was anything like the film portrays, I feel sorry for him. Not because of what he had to endure but because he joined his organization for the wrong reasons. He doesn’t know what brotherhood means because he wasn’t taught it, which is sad.

Instead of creating yet another film that bashes the Black Greek letter community about hazing, how about someone create a film that sheds light on after the pledging process. No, I am not condoning hazing and will never utter what I went through in my own pledging process. All I can say is that I am thankful for the lessons I learned. My process made me a stronger person and I gained seventeen beautiful line sisters from it. I know what sisterhood is and I’m pretty sure my male friends who have gone through similar processes like the one shown in Burning Sands know what brotherhood means as well.

There is a bigger picture and Burning Sands, unfortunately, doesn’t show it. If film directors and television show producers aren’t going to show the bigger picture, then it’s time to leave the subject alone.



  1. Harry

    Thank you for your contribution to this topic Dominique. I, however, must disagree with your premise and conclusion. First, the premise that any depiction of hazing by BGLOs must be “balanced” by counter narratives of “brotherhood/sistership” is false. The physical and emotional abuse and sometimes death caused by the systemic prevalence of underground hazing among BGLOs is by its nature inexcusable. This is not about “bashing” the BGLO community but bringing to light a serious issue that highlights a key hypocrisy, namely: how can BGLOs profess to uplift and advance scholarship when they engage in activities that jeopardize not only this scholastic pursuit but also puts bodies at risk? There is a curious supposition that “real” processes must be this way to truly be “made”. I implore you to read the literature regarding the “efficacy” of hazing. There are other ways to safely build strong bonds among individuals that are not predicated on cultures of secrecy, abuse, shame, and predatory power differentials. And lastly, just because a person consents to such abuse does not excuse the behavior.


    13 . 03 . 2017
    • myqueendomsized

      Maybe I wasn’t clear enough in my post but I wasn’t saying that I agree with certain hazing rituals. I do think there are certain ways to instill the things you are talking about without beating somebody’s ass. I know first hand myself. What I am merely saying that I am tired of seeing films and television shows that focus solely on the hazing part. Why can’t there be something in the universe that focuses on the brotherhood/sisterhood aspect? Burning Sands, amongst films and television shows, just keep setting us back. Yes, it needs to be made aware of but there needs to be a positive look on it as well.

      13 . 03 . 2017

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