Written and directed by David Burkman, “HAZE” is a fictional film about the barbarity and cruelty of fraternity and sorority hazing that must be undergone in order to be accepted into a brotherhood or sisterhood.
Inspired by his own collegiate experience in a fraternity, Burkman decided to explore all that is hazing in a different and more serious light, compared to other films in which Hollywood demonstrates it in a comedic light.
This inspiring and intense film takes us into the journey of Nick Forest, a college freshman who does all he can to join a fraternity. However, due to the hazing-related death of a fellow student on campus, Forest also deals with protests and the opposition of the Greek system by his own brother, Pete.
This film touches upon the issues that can occur when hazing is taken to the extreme. It also demonstrates how far someone will go to be accepted and find their sense of belonging. Throughout the hazing process, the men face circumstances of torture, including being blindfolded and forced to swallow live fish as a test of trust.
We also see them face instances that expose racism, homophobia, sexism and misogyny which Burkman describes as being “very deplorable.” Though the film focuses more on the physical torture that the men go through, we also discover the emotional torture that women go through by constantly belittling each other.
Though fraternities are based on brotherhood, Burkman presents an irony between the connection of biological brothers and fraternity brothers and looks into the unjustified reason as to why people tolerate the hazing.
“What’s fascinating about Greek life is that maybe for some who don’t have family relationships, it will fill a gap of void that’s missing. Does the fact that you grew up with someone mean that you’re more connected?” Burkman asks.
Though Burkman believes that brotherhood is built on trust, loyalty and respect, he also realizes the more overt values that seem to be presented throughout the film: partying, drinking and having sex. “Those values on paper that the fraternity establishes get completely perverted by the hazing process that gradually escalates through hell week and gives people the adrenaline rush and human nature thrills that feel safe. On paper and in theory, brotherhood is real, and if they did work towards trust, loyalty and respect, they may achieve that,” Burkman states.
Burkman created this film on the foundation of asking questions and receiving no answers. As he explained, “It brings to bear the audience’s own experience. Through the experience that Forest has, everybody feels different about what they would do and it makes the audience become active participants.
“What would you do? That is a part of the film’s message that makes us question who we are and how we’ll act in the world.”