Stars: Trevor Jackson, Alfre Woodard, Steve Harris, Tosin Cole, DeRon Horton, Trevante Rhodes, Malik Bazille, Keenan Echols, Mitchell Edwards, Imani Hakim, Racquel Bianca John, Daimion Johnson, Octavius J. Johnson, Deji LaRay, Dominique Mari, Serayah, Nafessa Williams.
Director: Gerard McMurray
Screenplay: Gerard McMurray & Christine Berg.
This film is about the underground hazing rituals of fraternities; underground meaning illegal, humiliating, fear inducing, and above all dangerously violent. Burning Sands (2017) does what many college set films don't do, show you just how abusive fraternities can be. It is not just about ripping you down to feel and show respect but it is treating you as sub-human that does not deserve any respect in regards to you own body. Burning Sands is set in Hell Week, the final week of the hazing that goes from simple exercise tasks to medical attention.
We follow Zurick (Trevor Jackson) as he is trying to juggle class work, his girlfriend, and being at the beck and call of the big brothers. He has to follow the codes of the brotherhood or he could easily be thrown out before he is ever a member.
There are good elements but the story doesn't have enough structure to really get a grip on how this world works. From the get go Zurick's professor Hughes (Alfre Woodard) is concerned about his participation, however I feel as though we were not invited to empathise with her perspective. Sure Zurick has a rib injury from the hazing but it feels too early within the plot for Hughes to be immensely concerned. There is also an element where she expects him to make the frat a better place, but I cannot piece it together to understand how he could make that happen from the outside. His injury could have been a really useful plot point to show his degradation through the final Hell Week but somehow it gets a little lost within the framework of the film.
If it had just a little bit of refinement this could have been a really smart film that shines a light on the abuse that these young men must go through to gain access to the elite in their college, it just misses the mark.