ARRAY Crew Member Antonio Calvache Featured in The Atlantic

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Queen Sugar Is the Most Luxurious Show on Television

The gorgeous family drama takes its time unraveling and honoring the particularities of Black life.

The intentional storytelling that distinguishes Queen Sugar from other TV dramas is what DuVernay terms “luxurious pacing.” The show adheres to a three-act structure more typical of films instead of TV’s usual five-act format—the latter’s design is well suited to ending each act with a cliff-hanger before the commercial break. Consequently, Queen Sugar episodes might have fewer moments of heightened action, but they still effectively build and sustain emotional tension across the breaks. This technique creates what feels like loping narrative strides that unfold into bursts of Black joy, even as the show takes on the most wrenching subject matter. Visually, the show heavily utilizes what the crew calls the “Queen Sugar frame,” or shots where an actor is isolated at the edge of the frame. The abundant negative space around the actor captures the Louisiana environment: the chartreuse and forest-green hues of the sprawling Bordelon farm, the muddy browns of the waterways, and the multicolored shotgun- and bungalow-style homes characteristic of Louisiana architecture. An editorial pattern that resists quick cuts allows scenes to linger, to capture what DuVernay calls the “gentle moments,” the subtle glances between characters, as the lighting perfectly hits their melanated skin. “Black people in their everyday lives should be shot with cinematic grandeur,” said DuVernay, who collaborated with the cinematographer Antonio Calvache to develop the show’s lighting direction.

 

 

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