Steve McQueen’s ‘Small Axe’ Anthology Series Deserves More Recognitions
Amazon Prime released a powerful collection of films called Small Axe – all directed and co-written by Academy Award-winner Steve McQueen – that look at varying social injustices imposed upon the West Indian population in London.
The anthology series as a whole has received acclaim from critics and appears on a number of “Top 10 of 2020” lists. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards named the anthology series as their Best Picture of the Year!
The first film of the series Mangrove focuses on Frank Crichlow (Shaun Parks), the owner of the Mangrove restaurant in west London. As London police continue to harass Crichlow and his restaurant, locals in the community took to the streets to protest – resulting in the 1971 Trial of the Mangrove Nine. Ironically, it came out around the same time as Netflix’s The Trial of the Chicago Seven, but Mangrove in our opinion, is superior to Sorkin’s recent release.
The second film Lovers Rock chronicles young love flourishing at a reggae house party in the 1980s. Shifting the tone from the emotional heaviness from the first flick, Lovers Rock is like Project X with artistic integrity. The movie highlights the importance of the lovers rock music genre to the West Indian community. Former President Barack Obama included Lovers Rock as one of his favorite movies of 2020.
Sabrina shares her thoughts on the film above.
Red, White and Blue
The third film Red, White and Blue tells the real-life story of Leroy Logan (played by John Boyega). Logan is a real-life London Metropolitan police officer who joined the force after his father was attacked and beat up by a squad of cops. His early days on the force were taxing, as his fellow officers refused to accept him and left him hanging on calls for backup. John Boyega delivers a career-defining performance that is equally charismatic and emotional – earning him a Critics Choice Awards nomination.
The fourth film Alex Wheatle follows the famous Black British novelist of the same name as a young DJ who was sentenced to a term of imprisonment after participating in the 1981 Brixton uprising. Covering poverty, music, and incarceration, this film is a window into the struggles of the abandoned Black youth.
Andres reviews Alex Wheatle for First Cut.
The final film of the series, Education, tells the story of 12-year-old Kingsley Smith (Kenyah Sandy) who’s fascinated with astronauts and rocket ships but has difficulties in his reading ability. He is transferred to a school for the “educationally subnormal”, where he and other kids with special needs are ignored and unofficially segregated. Even though the events and characters of this movie are fictional, the idea of London councils transferring Black children out of the mainstream education system is based on real events from the 1970s.
“The Meaning Of”
Lastly, this week on “The Meaning Of” Podcast, First Cut discussed all of the films as a whole – touching on the deeper themes within each “episode”, the amazing critical reception, and whether or not this project is a movie, a show, or somewhere in-between.