In a household where mealtimes are for celebration, fellowship and good eating, three members of this tight-knit family are diagnosed with diabetes over the years.
Animated short 3 Teaspoons Of Sugar is an informative health message warmly wrapped in a witty tale about South African family relationships.
That setting isn’t just a way of delivering a message; in part it is the message, highlighting the disease’s different manifestations in women from different generations of one family, and how easy it is to slip out of “good” health behaviours or encourage loved ones to do the same.
Science, medicine, and God are their backbones, and all are utilised to help family members rally and fight.
The Sue, her mother Mama K, and her grandmother, family matriarch and nurse LaLa, all live or lived with diabetes.
In fact the whole film is very much a family affair: co-directors Dr T and Kabelo “Cabblow” Maaka are mother and daughter; Dr T is The Sue’s sister.
The short comes from South African animation house Cabblow Studios which promises “quirk, Jesus and black girl magic”, and 3 Teaspoons Of Sugar is very much anchored in the cross-generational communities it needs to reach.
The animation is warm with an appealing simplicity and clarity; intertitle cards reinforce messages about symptoms to look out for; concern, love and even affectionate exasperation are everywhere.
I’m extremely nosy about other people’s family relationships anyway, and with a running time of under 14 minutes it’s never dull.
There’s a light touch to this filmmaking. It’s informative about symptoms both common (thirst) and rare (diabetic neuropathy, a lack of feeling in the extremities), and points out pitfalls that can lead us to fall into bad habits or encourage them in people we love; not just the food that brings families together, but ice creams on the run.
3 Teaspoons Of Sugar will be screening online as part of the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in June. It screened at Africa Rising International Film Festival in 2019 and Lagos International Festival of Animation 2020, reaching the semifinals in both competitions.
Watch the trailer below or rent the film.
Director Kabelo ‘Cabblow’ Maaka is an animator, illustrator, animation lecturer and founder and creative director of Johannesburg-based animation studio Cabblow Studios. Unsatisfied with the quality of animation education in South Africa, Kabelo started using YouTube to create art and animation tutorials. Together with her passion for animation and her skillset including digital character animation, character design, storyboarding, and scriptwriting, she is cultivating a unique voice that contributes meaningfully to the animation conversation in South Africa and internationally. Kabelo was a speaker at the Cape Town International Animation Festival in 2019.
Co-director Dr Tshepo P. Maaka has been a medical practitioner registered with the Health Professions Council since 1994, practicing mainly anaesthesiology. Until early 2018, Dr Maaka has been running an obstetrical anaesthetic practice at both the Sunninghill and Waterfall Hospitals in Gauteng. She partnered with her daughter Kabelo in forming Cabblow Studios and together, they are combining their skills in medicine and animation to carve out a unique niche in the South African animation market. They hope to produce content to educate on health in order to promote compliance and healthy living, and to produce better health outcomes.