REVIEW: Burning Sands (2017)

Release Poster – Netflix

The following is a quick review of Burning Sands – Directed by Gerard McMurray

Burning Sands is a story about the hazing that a group of young college students are put through in order to be accepted into a prestigious all African-American fraternity – Lambda Phi. One of the young students, Zurich (played by Trevor Jackson), is a very smart kid, and Professor Hughes (played by Alfre Woodard) takes a special interest in him. As he and his potential future fraternity brothers get closer to Hell Night, the final night of pledging and hazing, Zurich must decide how far he is willing to go to stand by the brotherhood.

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

I can’t say that I can truly speak intelligently on being put through what some fraternities, allegedly, put their future fraternity brothers through. It’s never been something I’ve come across. I’ve only ever heard about it. I, certainly, can’t relate to wanting, or rather accepting, to go through the painful challenges that are presented in films like Burning Sands.

Indeed, one of the problems that I have with the film is that I don’t think we get a good enough idea of what is motivating these college students to go through the torture. One of the characters is desperate to become a part of the fraternity because his family always has been, while another wants to become a part of the Lambda Phi brotherhood because his father was unable to become one.

But I think that’s all. Burning Sands also doesn’t really seem to have a lot to say about fraternity recruitment. At the very least, not anything unique or deep. It’s also somewhat alarming that the only memorable female character in the film – other than Professor Hughes – is a young woman named Toya (played by Nafessa Williams who is pretty good her scenes, actually), who all of the boys are told to sleep with, at one point in the film.

That said, I did enjoy seeing Trevante Rhodes, who we all just saw be terrific in Moonlight, (although I do wish his character was more important to Burning Sands). Trevor Jackson gives a solid performance and he really does hold your attention in the leading role. The ‘torture’ is also unsettling enough to make you uncomfortable. So, while Burning Sands may not be memorable for saying anything new or deep, the central performance does keep the film somewhat afloat.

6.5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex

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