Burning Sands Interview With Howard Alumni & Director Gerard McMurray
It doesn’t matter if you attend a PWI or an HBCU; you won’t be able to escape greek life. You will see greek members walking around campus, wearing their letters in class, having probates, or strolling at parties. For many colleges nationwide, greek life seems to be the glue that holds campus life together. Even though sorority and fraternity members tend to be highly active on campus, most people are oblivious to what it takes to cross the burning sands and officially earn greek letters.
Netflix latest original film Burning Sands, directed by Gerard McMurray and written by Christine Berg and Gerard McMurray. This movie shines a light on all of the good, bad, and ugly that comes with joining a fraternity and becoming a part of a lifelong brotherhood. Burning Sands follows Zurich, a college student who attends the fictional Fredrick Douglas University, and his quest to become a member of the (fictional) black fraternity Lambda Phi. The movie kicks off during hell week, which is supposed to be the final but hardest week of pledging.
During this week, Zurich and his line brothers are faced with many challenges and subjected to even more humiliating task; they are forced to walked blindly into a pool while tennis balls are being thrown at them, eat dog food, and even beaten relentlessly just to name a few. Through all of the pain and hardship, Zurich and his line brothers still had faith that it would all be worth it once they were official members of Lambda Phi.
While watching this movie I found myself torn between having an understanding for all of the challenges they (Zurich and his line brothers) faced and hating the big brothers for putting them through any of it. I understand how out of control pledging can really get. I also know how easily if can be to ignore all of the “danger” signs and keep pushing because all you want it to be a part of your dream organization.
This is something that Zurich also faces. Even though he is building a bond with his line brothers and those already a part of the organization, he also sees how out of hand things are becoming and starts to wonder if it all be worth it in the end. Zurich is falling behind in his classes, neglecting his relationships with those outside of Lambda Phi, and barely sleeping. He’s trying his hardest to ignore his intuition that something isn’t right but eventually he will learn that life won’t allow you to ignore the warning signs forever.
We had the pleasure of speaking with the director of Burning Sands Gerard McMurray and Actor Trevor Jackson.
Though Gerard McMurray has played a crucial part in the indie film world as an associate producer of Ryan Coogler’s acclaimed 2013 drama Fruitvale Station, the genesis of his debut feature as a writer-director, Burning Sands goes back to 2012. It was at that time that McMurray got the idea to dramatize the experience of hazing at a historically black university.
“My idea was originally inspired by some news stories that were happening at the time,” McMurray says. “It dawned on me that the life of a young man is fraught with all types of peril, no matter what the situation. Even those who are in a supposedly ideal situation, like college, often go through violent dramatic experiences as a rite of passage.”
“I was also intrigued by the idea of mob mentality, and how people can become exceedingly cruel, albeit in the guise of brotherhood,” McMurray continues. “The themes are not uncommon, as almost all human beings require some sort of proving ground before transitioning from an outsider to an insider – especially in a prestigious, highly coveted group.”
5 Things We Learned About Director/Writer Gerard McMurray
- Gerard is from 7th Ward New Orleans.
- Gerard is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
- Gerard was also one of the brilliant producers on Fruitvale Station.
- Gerard graduated from Howard University and earned a BA in Radio-Television-Film Production.
- Gerard currently works as an Adjunct Film Professor at HBCU, Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, GA.
After watching Burning Sands I feel like the question at hand is; at what cost is a brotherhood (or sisterhood) worth to you? What are you willing to do in order to cross the burning sands? It’s important to know this prior to pledging and stand firm in whatever you decided you will and won’t do. Sadly, by the time Zurich and his line brothers learned this, it was too late.
Gerard, what did he want young people to take away from his film?
“I hope they take away the concept of being a “free-thinker” before joining any group or organization. “This movie is about coming into manhood.” “Nowadays we don’t think on our own.” I want young people to know it’s ok to be a free-thinker.”
Gerard have you received any backlash from greek communities?
He said he had received some backlash before the movie premiered on Netflix. “Burning Sands does not share any ritualistic handshakes nor do we share secrets about any fraternity or sorority.” “My goal is not to make anyone feel uncomfortable but to show the complicated path to manhood and intricacies of brotherhood.”
If you’re looking for a good movie to watch then Burning Sands is it!! Give it a watch and come back to comment what you thought about the film!
Twila-Amoure McDaniel31 Posts
Twila-Amoure McDaniel is a college student who is majoring in both communications and film studies. When she isn't in class she is more than likely somewhere making videos for her YouTube channel. Her passions include writing, art, and film-making and she currently has plans on going into the film industry. Twila-Amoure does have crohn's disease, however she is very determined not to allow that to stop her from achieving all of her goals in life. Be sure to follow her on all on her social media platforms @TwilaAmoure and feel free to browse through Campus Lately for more of her work.