Queen sugar blends the sweet­ness of fam­ily con­nec­tion with bit­ter sib­ling ri­valry.

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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.”


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.

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