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‘It is Easier to build strong children than repair a broken man’.

This quote from Frederick Douglass is the central topic of the film Burning Sands. Directed by Gerard McMurray, we receive a story that is very unique in regards to its storyline but the topic it focuses on is very close to home. The movie follows the underground hazing of student Zurich (played by Trevor Jackson) as he spends a week trying to get into a fraternity known for brotherhood and unity. To be able to enter, Zurich with a group of five others has to undergo a series of demoralising tasks which lead to blatant torture all for the sake of brotherhood. The group must use ‘mind over matter’ and are told that only the strong will survive the challenges. Zurich’s eyes, as well as the audience’s, are opened as we see the harsh realities that occur behind closed doors in American colleges, showing what harsh fraternity hazing actually involves.

With an all-black cast, McMurray presents a theme of slavery in his movie, with the idea that men will go through many different levels of moral degradation just for the feeling of acceptance or to have a sense of belonging. Using an all-black cast creates an even more powerful message to show that corruption knows no colour and that power can corrupt anyone.

The movie follows the group of students through a one week period where they have to persevere to become members of the fraternity. The main goal is for them to survive until ‘hell night’ which would be their last trial before they can become members. Although being a seemingly simple storyline, the way that it is presented is powerful as we see the effects the underground hazing has on each character as they struggle with their mental stability as their lives are tested by their ‘Big brothers’. Each event during the week has an effect on the group showing just how much the body can take when the mind is strong.

Being overtly violent from the offset, it can be seen as a disturbing movie as we basically see black men enslaving other black men in the name of brotherhood and torturing them simply because they can. I believe there is a more powerful meaning behind it, as it shows how power can corrupt and how extreme one can get in the desire to achieve exclusivity.

Overall I really enjoyed the movie, as it is very different from most movies that are out now and it has a strong message that most people can relate to. Gerard McMurray has produced a powerful movie that I believe will most likely win awards at the Sundance Film festival this year.

 

Ramel Calvin