Small Axe: Black Film Miniseries by Steve McQueen

The first film from Steve McQueen’s highly anticipated Small Axe will premiere on BBC One and iPlayer on Sunday 15th November at 9pm. The five original films that make up the Small Axe collection by Academy Award, BAFTA and Golden Globe-winning filmmaker, Steve McQueen will air weekly on the BBC’s heartland channel.

Set from the late 1960’s to the mid-1980’s, each of the  films  tell a story involving London’s West Indian community, whose lives have been shaped by their own force of will, despite rampant racism and discrimination. Even though this collection of films is set some decades ago, the stories are as vital and timely today as they were for the West Indian community in London at the time. Small Axe is a celebration of Black joy, beauty, love, friendship, family, music and even food; each one, in its own unique way, conveys hard-won successes, bringing hope and optimism for the future.

The anthology, anchored in the West Indian experience in London, is a celebration of all that that community has succeeded in achieving against the odds,” explains Steve McQueen. “Although all five films take place between the late 60s and mid-80s, they are just as much a comment on the present moment as they were then. They are about the past, yet they are very much concerned with the present.”

Mangrove will receive it’s broadcast premiere on BBC One and iPlayer on Sunday 15th November. The film centres on Frank Crichlow the owner of Notting Hill’s Caribbean restaurant, Mangrove, a lively community base for locals, intellectuals and activists. In a reign of racist terror, the local police raid Mangrove time after time, making Frank and the local community take to the streets in peaceful protest in 1970. When nine men and women, including Frank and leader of the British Black Panther Movement Altheia Jones-LeCointe  and activist Darcus Howe are wrongly arrested and charged with incitement to riot, a highly publicised trial ensues, leading to hard-fought win for those fighting against discrimination. An all star Black cast with some very familiar faces including Gershwyn Eustache and Letitia Wright. Mangrove was co-written by Alastair Siddons and Steve McQueen.

Lovers Rock Sunday 22nd November tells a fictional story of young love at a Blues party in 1980. The film is an ode to the romantic reggae genre “Lovers Rock” and to the Black youth who found freedom and love in its sound in London house parties, when they were unwelcome in white nightclubs.  Lovers Rock was co-written by Courttia Newland and Steve McQueen.

Scene from Lovers Rock

Red, White and Blue Sunday 29th November tells the true story of Leroy Logan, a young forensic scientist with a yearning to do more than his solitary laboratory work. When he sees his father assaulted by two policemen, he finds himself driven to revisiting a childhood ambition to become a police officer; an ambition borne from the naïve hope of wanting to change racist attitudes from within. First, Leroy has to face the consequences of his father’s disapproval, never mind the blatant racism he finds in his new role as a despised yet exemplary Constable in the Metropolitan Police Force. John Boyega  and Steve Toussaint star. Red, White and Blue was co-written by Courttia Newland and Steve McQueen.

John Boyega stars as Leroy Logan in Red, White And Blue

Alex Wheatle Sunday 6th December follows the true story of award-winning writer, Alex Wheatle, from a young boy through his early adult years. Having spent his childhood in a mostly white institutional care home with no love or family, he finally finds not only a sense of community for the first time in Brixton, but his identity and ability to grow his passion for music and DJ’ing. When he is thrown in prison during the Brixton Uprising of 1981, he confronts his past and sees a path to healing. Sheyi Cole stars opposite Jonathan Jules. Alex Wheatle was co- written by Alastair Siddons and Steve McQueen.

Alex Wheatle, played by Shehi Cole

Education Sunday 13th December is the coming of age story of 12-year-old Kingsley played by Kenyah Sandy with a fascination for astronauts and rockets. When Kingsley is pulled to the Headmaster’s office for being disruptive in class, he discovers he’s being sent to school for those with “special needs”. Distracted by working two jobs his parents (Sharlene Whyte, Daniel Francis) are unaware of the unofficial segregation policy at play, preventing many Black children from having the education they deserve until a group of West Indian women take matters into their own hands. BAFTA-award winning Naomi Ackie stars. Education was co-written by Alastair Siddons and Steve McQueen.

Joy Sigaud