Gerard McMurray’s complicated but utterly entertaining drama “Burning Sands,” which will debut on Netflix March 10th centers on the controversial “underground” frat hazing at an all-black college. That’s just the jumping off point.
At first glance one might ask “where is the African-American unity” but just like real life, you have to peer deeper and decide to listen and to hear the words being uttered by the central characters. Through this prism of the societal construct called fraternity, we see our history reflected in shattered shards.
The story opens as aspiring inductees are entering the dreaded Hell Week and being put through their paces by their future big brothers on the low-down since their fraternity has been banned due to hazing infractions in the recent past.
The screenplay by first-time screenwriters Christine Berg and director Gerard McMurray has a fearless, honest tone and does not flinch in demonstrating just how brutal some of the big brothers are in constantly roughing up the pledgees. Beating after beating, one young man is kicked off the line, leaving five aspirants to ponder their place in the fraternity and question brotherhood on a wider canvas. All this, mind you, while they struggle to maintain academic demands and their personal lives.
Almost makes me want to reactivate my Netflix account.
While no regular Masonic ritual is at all analogous to the kind of underground hazing depicted in the show, an interesting aspect of the film is the exploration of the reasons and continuing need for fraternalism, not only in the black community, but among all men. But it also is curious to note that television producers seem to be discovering fraternalism on a wider basis in dramatic fashion, instead of in parody. Last September, the mini-series Queen Sugar portrayed a Masonic funeral service. And in October, AMC announced development of a new series called Lodge 49 about a fictional Shrine-like fraternal lodge.
According to its early description, Lodge 49’s premise:
“centers on Dud, a deadbeat but charming ex-surfer who joins a fraternal order hoping to reclaim the simple, happy lifestyle he lost when his father died. Through the Lodge and his newfound connection with the other members, Dud will come to find the missing sense of purpose in his life and confront his deepest fears and greatest hopes… [It explores the idea that] life can be magical if you look at it from the right angle, what it means to be on the fringe, and the importance of community.”
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