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.