The new Netflix original movie Burning Sands takes us inside Hell Week, that period where anything goes as college fraternities bring out all their cruelty on new pledges. The movie follows Zurich (Trevor Jackson), a pledge at a frat at a prestigious and primarily black college.
Zurich is torn, though. While he wants to belong to the frat and is being encouraged to keep on with the indoctrination he’s not comfortable with what’s required and voices his displeasure. Both the push and pull going on inside him increase as the pain of Hell Week increases. The more he wants out, the more he’s pushed to stay in.
There only appears to have been one poster for the movie. It shows a drawing of pair of black hands holding a paddle, the kind used to whack the backsides of misbehaviors and others, that’s emblazoned with greek letters. That clearly establishes that we’re in the fraternity system of a black college, though there’s not much else about the story or the characters here. Still, it’s a powerful image and makes quite the impression.
The first trailer quickly throws us into the antics and exploits pledges are dealing with in the midst of Hell Week. That includes relatively benign activities like fast food pranks but also more intense physical and emotional abuse at the hands of the brothers. Through it all Zurich is torn between the desire to endure and meet the expectations of those around him and the knowledge that what he and the other pledges are going through is wrong, not to mention painful.
It’s intense and sells a drama that feels urgent and important. It’s a story that won’t be easy and features a lot of intense story points but which shouldn’t be ignored because of that.
Online and Social
No website or social profiles for the movie, as is common for Netflix releases.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Similarly, nothing here. There’s likely to be some online advertising once the movie is actually available to drive sign-ups, though.
Media and Publicity
The movie had its big coming out at Sundance just a few months ago. There is wracked up pretty good reviews and word of mouth and the cast and crew spoke quite a bit about it while they were in Park City. Netflix picked it up quickly in response to all the positive buzz.
There wasn’t much of a press push here. Jackson spoke in an interview or two about what attracted him to the role, how he sees the greek system in light of the story and more.
As usual, Netflix isn’t giving this a huge promotional push, relying mostly on the Sundance word-of-mouth and the press pop that came with the release of the trailer to get people to subscribe and tune in. That’s largely alright since those are two strong pillars on which to hang the campaign, but I’m still waiting for a Netflix original release to get a more full-throated campaign.
That being said, there’s a version of this campaign that sells the movie as something much darker, about the evil people at the heart of the frat who are punishing new victims simply because they’re nasty people. Or there’s a more overtly horrific element to it. Instead it’s being sold clearly as a personal drama about Zurich and his struggles, which makes it a very low-key story that has, if anything, a bigger impact.