Queen sugar blends the sweetness of family connection with bitter sibling rivalry.
Queen Sugar Season 1 Tuesdays (from 11 April) Mzansi Magic (*161) 21:30
Queen Sugar (2016- current) is a 13- episode family drama series based on the 2014 novel of the same name by Natalie Baszile and produced by Oprah Winfrey in association with executive producer and series creator Ava DuVernay. In it we meet the three Bordelon siblings – New Orleans activist Nova (Rutina Wesley), LA basketball wife Charley (Dawn- Lyen Gardner) and dirt poor ex-jailbird and unemployed singledad Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe) – each of whom has their own complicated life and issues. When their father Ernest (Glynn Turman) falls ill, they have to leave their lives behind for a while as they decide on the future of his struggling 800-acre sugarcane farm in Louisiana. With such different goals and personalities, it’s going to be an epic battle to reach that agreement, but it’s a fight worth having. “The Bordelons are black but the story is universal,” says Rutina. “We all walk in the same truth: Your family may be dysfunctional, but it’s still your family.”
SEEING THE LIGHT
Part of what makes Queen Sugar so gorgeous to watch is the extraordinary lighting work in the series. It’s a technical issue we wouldn’t normally talk about but effort has been made to light all the characters so their skin glows and their expressions come to life. Ava explains, “Historically, you have had really muddy, unforgiving, unintentional images of black people. So I learnt a lot from Bradford Young and Arthur Jafa and Malik Sayeed and the great black cinematographers about how to actually light our skin. There’s just such a variance of tints in skin tone. You light each one as if they’re the hero of the story, and it takes a little bit longer and everyone doesn’t know how to do it – it’s not just putting light on. Our Latino cinematographer Antonio Calvache was really extraordinary… he was very intentional with the various brown skin tones.”
Three very different but united siblings (from left): Ralph Angel, Nova and Charley.