Burning Sands Is Entertainingly Accurate and Inaccurate
On November 22nd, 1997, I crossed the burning sands of Alpha Phi Alpha. Hailing from Beta Upsilon chapter of Alabama State University, our chapter was known for its leadership and vibrant social status. However, none of that status could prepare me for the six weeks, six days, 22 hours, 48 minutes and 0–6 seconds of trials, tribulations, tears, and turmoil that came in the form of a rite of passage. Nor could any of that standing prepare me for the tireless effort and work it took to hold high the name of Alpha. Still, I came out at the end of it all a better man.
All of that reminiscing and “back in the day buffet” recollection leads me into the premier of the Netflix movie Burning Sands. Before I took the time to watch, I had to go against my own judgment. I planned on not giving it any attention due to mixed reviews and the reasons for them. However, a faithful frat brother of mine wanted to see what I felt about this cinematic presentation. Plus, I am the type to formulate my own opinions. Therefore, I spent a good hour and 40 minutes of my time watching a movie that depicted the generalization of the rite of passage before becoming a fraternity member.
After that hour and 40 minutes were gone, I realized that I watched an engagingly uneven movie.
Burning Sands Gets It Right
I am not going to act like that Burning Sands didn’t have a lot of accuracy to it when it did. The late night and early mornings shared by the pledgees is something all too real. Being out in the woods? That is correct. Running errands for different brothers and messing up orders and not getting stuff right? I’m all there. That feeling of being overwhelmed to the point that your work and hygiene suffers? Make sense. Even the dysfunction of relationships due to the madness of the process was something that I understood.
Add in the actions of crazy chapter brothers and people pledging for their own reasons and you will see just what people went through in my heyday.
Burning Sands Becomes Hardcore Fiction
At some point, someone must realize that much of what is going on is about a fictional fraternity. And within that fictional fraternity are situations that are either highly improbable or are so stupid that it is no wonder so many organizations are caught in hazing scandals.
Nothing against the producers or director of the film, but the film starts off during “Hell Week” and that can be troubling on its own. But that isn’t the strangest, or disconcerting, part of the entire film. And I will even list some of them.
1.) If you are on line with someone, you would know their real name. Zurich (main character) didn’t know his line brother’s real name after weeks of pledging? Okay.
2.) Too many dumb, risky behaviors: in no way, shape, or form should any (black) fraternity would get caught partying with pledgees. That makes no sense. And if they are, then they are stupid. The same goes for getting them sex with random, loose lip women. And talking to people like the Dean? Oh, no. The Dean should know better than that one. Plus, too many of the pledgees walked around campus like it was all good instead of hiding in plain sight.
3.) Three week pledge process is not realistic: I’m not saying it couldn’t (or hasn’t) happen. But, I would never suggest it. And anybody that has went through any process knows that three weeks on is short. Much of the process is about two things: learning the material like the back of your hand and bonding with the other men on your line. And those two things need more time. So, either these pledgees knew their stuff or this is extremely fictionalized.
4.) The depiction of a soft DP: The dean of pledges should never EVER allow such fuck shit to occur during a process. Some of those brothers were way out of line and put the chapter at risk because they were reckless. The DP is supposed to be the draw bridge between the pledgees and the brothers. And when a brother is out of line, they should be excommunicated from the process. It is just that simple.
5.) Injuries: I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. But if there is ANY situation that a pledgee is injured, then that is lawsuit material. So, a fraternity would handle that with care. Unless of course they are dumb and want to be unchartered.
With all of that said, there is going to be some disconnect between the movie and some members of any black fraternity.
Burning Sand Conclusion
Here is what the viewer should take into consideration: the movie is a work of fiction. There are going to be some aspects that are on point. There are going to be certain things that many won’t rock with. What should be understood is that neither here nor there. The movie is entertaining and well made. Yet, I would not use this as a full-blown viewing of the average pledging experience for any black fraternity member. Personally, it is all entertainment no matter how focused or farfetched it is.
‘Nuff Said and ‘Nuff Respect!!!