Reel Shorts | Queen Sugar


Draped in southern mysticism, family secrets, and lush imagery, Black Reel Award winner Ava DuVernay’s introduction to the world of television series, Queen Sugar continues to expand her unique blend of storytelling that spotlights her love of Black women and the divergent lives that they lead.

Over the past decade, DuVernay has quietly developed a reputation for not just beautiful and lush imagery but for her visual storytelling style of that presents a dynamic mosaic juxtaposing womanhood, style and culture like few of her contemporaries.

In her latest, she introduces us to the Bordelon clan, older sister and family anchor, Nova (Rutina Wesley), the stylish middle sister, Charley (Dawn-Lyen Gardner) and the baby of the family, and wayward soul, Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe). Each of the siblings is experiencing various levels of success but at their core, but possesses an emotional void that can only be complete when they are united as a family unit.

While both Charley and Nova have put their Louisiana roots in their rear view, Ralph Angel hasn’t been so fortunate. Steeped with abandonment issues, he is also raising his son without the help of his drug-addicted baby mother, Darla (Bianca Lawson) who he refuses to let back into his son’s life. Meanwhile, Charley seems to have it all on the surface, a basketball star husband, Davis West (Timon Kyle Durrett) have a wonderful family and smart young son, Micah (Nicholas L. Ashe) but of course, there is trouble brewing for this perfect union. Then there is the freelance journalist and part-time mystic, Nova, who has control issues and secrets of her own that will be explored during the show.

While the children are busy leading their lives, the family patriarch, Ernest Bordelon (Glynn Turman) also has secrets of his own and soon they will spill over bringing cause and effect for the next generation. His sister, Violet (Tina Lifford) has found happiness with a younger lover, Hollywood (Omar Dorsey), yet she remains concerned that despite her current happiness that secretly he will want something that she can no longer give.

The first three episodes dangle several promising plot points that should resonate throughout the first season and perhaps serve as the foundation for the entire run of the series. Duvernay, who directed the first two episodes, does a brilliant job of laying the groundwork interspersing inspiring mood music (the opening of the pilot episode), breathtaking imagery (the final scene of episode 2) and authentic family dynamics (Nova and Charley discussion in episode two) that each of the all-female directors promises to flawlessly follow.

Based on the popular novel by Natalie Baszile, Queen Sugar is a wonderful compliment to OWN Network’s current hit drama, Greenleaf and shows that the executives at the channel are creating a very opportunity to turn their channel into a destination for African-American viewers. If OWN can find two more series boasting the quality of these two shows, Oprah Winfrey’s dream of creating a competitor for the network television fare will be more than a threat.

Already renewed for a second season, Queen Sugar will debut as a two-night event with the pilot episode airing on Wednesday, September 6, and episode two airing on Thursday, September 7, before settling into its weekly Thursday night slot.

Grade: B+

Check out the extended trailers, below: