McMurray’s “Burning Sands” Sparks Conversation
Burning Sands is one the latest films to garner attention from Black Twitter. Unlike Hidden Figures, Fences, and Moonlight, Burning Sands isn’t attracting good attention.
Directed by Gerard McMurray, a member of the Divine Nine’s Omega Psi Phi fraternity, Burning Sands is about a male student, Zurich, who wants to pledge the fictional fraternity Lambda Lambda Phi. During “Hell Week,” Zurich and his potential line brothers face intensive, underground hazing.
This movie is breaking the internet because people are not happy with the way the movie portrays pledging. While the movie shows Greek life as some assume it to be, such as the partying, women, and more, it is the hazing that has people upset about the movie.
“All of the organizations within the D9 are non-hazing organizations, and it’s really disappointing to see a movie display black Greeks as cruel people that haze and to that extent,” said Briana Simms, a member of the D9 sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho Inc. Although she thinks the movie shows the effects of hazing, she said she doesn’t like that McMurray seems to fail in demonstrating the sisterhood and brotherhood D9 organizations stand for.
However, some people who watched Burning Sands feel as if McMurray’s job was not to portray Greek life but to portray the negative effects of hazing. “ I don’t think the movie represents frat life as much as it represents hazing,” said Ayanna Robertson, who is not Greek affiliated. “Or what some believe goes into becoming Greek.” On the other hand, a member of Delta Sigma Theta Inc., Asia Fernandes, said, from what she’s seen of the trailer, she feels as if Burning Sands tries to push the agenda of tradition. According to Fernandes, tradition isn’t a bad thing; however, what’s the point of tradition when the purpose is lost?
“Joining a brotherhood should not and was not founded based on how many gallons of alcohol a person can chug, or how many licks they can take before they’ve finally had enough,” Fernandes said. “It should be based on what qualities they can contribute to the organization to help it grow and fulfill the principles upon which it was created.”
In an interview with EBONY, McMurray said he wanted to highlight the secret, yet venerable, historic part of Greek life. However, Kappa Alpha Psi member, Kylar Wiltz, feels as if that message will be lost among the other messages.
“I feel as if it portrays Greek life in a negative light,” Wiltz said. “Greek life isn’t about that at all.” According to Wiltz, Greek life is about brotherhood, high standards and excellence. He feels as if the movie doesn’t depict how the majority of Greeks feel about their organization. He added that he felt the film would push people away from crossing D9 because Burning Sands builds a “misconstrued opinion” of what Greek life is like.
However, DJ Gatewood, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha (Spr. ’14) who crossed at the University of California at Riverside, said he didn’t feel the movie portrayed Greeks negatively. According to him, “outsiders” will never know the true meaning of Greek brotherhood or sisterhood. “Until one goes through the experience of becoming Greek, they’ll never understand,” Gatewood said. He added that watching the film brought back laughs, tears, chills, and overall joy at his experience. “Greek life isn’t for everybody,” Gatewood continued. “I learned that if someone really wants a brotherhood/sisterhood, they will do whatever it takes to have that. Pledging is hard, but life is harder.”
No matter what people think, McMurray directed the made-for-Netflix movie to start a conversation about hazing—and McMurray feels as if this movie is doing just that.