Hayley Maitland (Vogue) writes about Small Axe, the new BBC-produced period drama directed by Steve McQueen. The series (to be aired through Amazon in the U.S.) is set in London’s West Indian community between the 1960s-’80s. [Also see our previous post Kindred Spirit.] Many thanks to Peter Jordens for contributing additional links to this item; see link to trailer below.
Every Steve McQueen project is a landmark event, and the Academy Award winner’s forthcoming anthology series, Small Axe, is no exception. Made up of five distinct hour-long films set to air on BBC One later this year, it centres on London’s West Indian community from the late 1960s to the early 1980s – highlighting individuals who built deeply meaningful lives in spite of being faced with systemic racism. Fittingly, the project’s title derives from an African proverb used across the Caribbean and made famous by Bob Marley and the Wailer’s 1973 album Burnin’: “If you are the big tree, we are the small axe.”
Now, McQueen has finally dropped the trailer for one of the films, Mangrove, and it’s both timely and incredibly powerful. Released to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Mangrove March, the clip sees Letitia Wright (Black Panther), Shaun Parkes (Lost in Space), and Malachi Kirby (Curfew) star as members of the so-called Mangrove 9: nine West Indian, African, and South Asian activists who were charged with “incitement to riot” after protesting the Metropolitan Police’s frequent targeting of Notting Hill’s Mangrove restaurant, an important space for civil rights discussions. Their subsequent trial at the Old Bailey in 1970 resulted in a historic judicial acknowledgment of racially motivated behaviour by police.
“Sunday, August 9th, is 50 years since the Mangrove March, which led to nine innocent Black women and men being arrested,” McQueen, who co-wrote Mangrove with Alastair Siddons, explained in a statement. “It was a march necessitated by relentless police brutality in Notting Hill. To commemorate the bravery of these community activists and the nine who went on to be acquitted of incitement to riot with the judge citing ‘evidence of racial hatred’, I am sharing the trailer of Mangrove, one of five films to be released under the banner Small Axe.” [. . .]
‘Small Axe’: BBC Unveils First-Look at Steve McQueen Period Drama
Peter White, Deadline, September 10, 2019 https://deadline.com/2019/09/small-axe-bbc-unveils-first-look-steve-mcqueen-1202730273
Small Axe: First Look Trailer
BBC, August 7, 2020