Director-Gerard McMurray


Zurich (Trevor Jackson) is a freshman at historically black Frederick Douglas University. Throughout Zurich’s entire life he wanted nothing more to pledge and be a member of the prestigious Lambda Lambda Phi fraternity. After being referred to the fraternity by the dean of the college (Steve Harris) Zurich begins the initiation. The final process known as “Hell Week” Zurich and the other recruits are experienced to extreme forms of hazing. They are asked to perform various odd tasks and are beaten up crucially. Zurich now risks losing his relationship, academic standing and health all for the opportunity to be accepted.

Nose Candy

“I want you to take that passion and lead by example”

“One more night is not going to kill you this I know”

“You don’t have to go to college to know shit. I learn through life”

“The credibility of this fraternity is at stake”

“We are the descendants of kings and queens not slaves you, you, you kings.”

“Its easier to build strong children then repair broken men”- Frederick Douglas

Style Points

  • Viciousness of the recruits getting beat down
  • Text being blown up on-screen
  • Day by Day breakdown of hell week
  • One take through greek party
  • Blur focus as Zurich and his girlfriend are breaking up
  • Close up on Zurich in emergency room
  • Frederick Douglas quotes and odes throughout

Role Play

Trevor Jackson was excellent here. This was my first time seeing him in a film and apparently he is a great singer as well. The best thing about this performance was that he did not seem like a singer attempting to act for the sake of being in a film. Jackson owned this role and has potential to be a mega star with all of his talent. Is it just me or does he look like Trey Songs long-lost twin brother?

Veterans Alfre Woodard and Steve Harris were nice pick ups as faculty and after seeing Deron Horton in Dear White People he was the perfect choice for the role of Square. Trevante Rhodes played one of the fraternity heads and I really want to see him throughout in entire film. Similar to Moonlight he was excellent here in limited screen time. Nafessa Williams as Toya stole the show. The box braids and hoop earings did it for me. She was extremely hilarious as who doesn’t love a good ghetto girl you can’t ever take home.

Money Shot

On the final night of Hell week Zurich addresses his fellow recruits who have now become as close as brothers. He lets each one of them know how much he loves and appreciates them. He wants his new-found friends to enjoy this opportunity while they have it because it might not be there anymore in a very moving monologue.

Final Touch

Burning Sands takes a different but realistic approach inside the not so glorious aspects of pledging. I was surprised to find out this was McMurray’s first feature as from beginning to end this film was on point. The cinematography is eye-catching and the music consists of every tune you are bound to hear at a HBCU function.  The acting was exceptional with most notably a break out performance from one Trevor Jackson.  There is a good story of Zurich wanting to be apart of this fraternity for so long then realizing that it was not what he expected. Even though the fraternity was not what it was made out to be, Zurich did find brotherhood in the new friends that he made while attempting to join. The final challenge of all the pledges having to eat dog food and sticking up for each other was intense.  I do wonder how fraternity/sorority members will view this film. I don’t think it depicts them in a negative light or anything  but I could see how some may get offended. I am sure there is intense hazing in any club or organization and it takes a lot to speak up. The ending is unfortunate but well executed visually. Burning Sands offers a powerful message to anyone trying to fit in with any group that you do not have to compromise yourself in order to fit in. There are many willing to stand in the fire with you just for being who you are.

-Caleb Harris

Any thoughts on Burning Sands or the write-up? Please leave comments.