‘Burning Sands’ Star on Bringing Black Fraternity Hazing to the Screen, Potential Backlash

Netflix’s newest film “Burning Sands” has yet to debut, but already generated controversy. After a debut at Sundance, the movie will be released to subscribers on March 10.

Starring Trevor Jackson, the drama also taps Trevante Rhodes, Alfre Woodard, Steve Harris, Imani Hakim, and more for an unforgiving look at the secret life of fraternities and the violent hazing rituals that surround them.

Jackson recently spoke to Variety and addressed the strong reaction to the film on social media among predominately African-American Greek fraternities and sororities.

“There definitely will be backlash,” Jackson explained. “I feel like people are so closed-minded at times. Especially a story like this. It’s so intense and so raw. People will think that it’s being told from a certain perspective, but it’s not.” He adds, “It’s not pro fraternity or against fraternities. It’s just a story that’s being told and the audience can make their decision.”  

Jackson received insight from director Gerard McMurray, who is a member of the Greek letter organization Omega Psi Phi.

“I totally respect fraternities,” the actor said. “I met with [Kappas] when I was studying for the role. Then I went and I saw some stroll [choreographed dancing]. They weren’t letting anyone in and they let me in because they knew I was studying for the film. They strolled [and] I loved it.”

Although extreme, the filming process piqued the 20-year-old actor’s interest to join a fraternity, specifically Kappa Alpha Psi, and also influenced his practice as an actor. “I went through a lot. I was hazing myself; let’s put it that way. I wasn’t getting sleep. If I missed lines, I would do what happens to them in the fraternities. I definitely grew a lot.”

For those going through a similar experience, Jackson offered advice. “Don’t ever silence your morality to be apart of anything,” he said. “It’s the same with Hollywood. People say things they’ll never do, but then do them because they want to be a part of this great thing. So I would say stick to your guns, stay true, because that’s what it’s all about.”

Check out the trailer below.

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