By Laura McNeil
The 2019 CaribbeanTales International Film Festivalwas full of treats this year. Things got even sweeter however, with the presentation of a short film called Miss Sugga. This film is actually an excerpt from the popular series written and directed by Jamaican born Mary Wells. We sat down at the Royal Cinema in Toronto to see what Ms. Sugga was all about.
This feature was an introduction to the educational series focused on Jamaica’s sugar industry. Since its release in Jamaica the series has gained much success, and inspired the Government of Jamaica to partner with the University of the West Indies (UWI) to take ownership of the series rights. Many might have the idea that this series is geared only towards youth as it is animated, however it has appeal for all ages. For children, it will definitely be a lesson in history. For adults this could serve as a refresher on what they already know, or provide an effect similar to that of the younger viewers.
In this screening we saw episode one of the Ms. Suggaseries. We were introduced to the main characters, Ms. Sugga the feisty talking sugar cane stalk desperately in search of her beloved molasses. The molasses is the missing ingredient for the bulla cakes she was in the process of making at the start of the episode.
Ms. Sugga and two of her young neighbours embark on a journey to find this oh so important missing ingredient, however we find out very soon that it won’t be an easy task. Along the way we are introduced to another main character, a wise African Chief name Tacky. Tacky proves to be an important character on the show, as he is the driver and storyteller on each of Ms. Sugga’s journey’s. Soon they are interrupted when they bump into a turbulent time in Jamaica’s past. Everyone in the room seemed eager to hear more, however this was a snippet of an episode being screened as a short film, and sadly we didn’t see the end. From what I saw the delivery of the message was really cool. Real footage of the moment(s) in history being taught are incorporated into this animated project, which flows well with the current age of film and TV. Ms. Sugga reminded me of a show from my childhood called the The Magic School Bus. The difference was that we learned about biology and science instead of history.
By now I’m sure you can tell that I really enjoyed this series snippet turned short film. The director Mary Wells came up with a great way to share parts of history that aren’t discussed enough. Ms. Sugga has now become part of the mandatory secondary school curriculum in Jamaica. Miss Wells is passionate about the need for African and Caribbean people to keep storytelling alive, and it seems that this series is definitely a contribution to that goal.