Small Axe, a collection of five original films – by Academy Award, Bafta and Golden Globe-winning filmmaker, Steve McQueen, starts streaming on BINGE next month.
Set from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, each film tells a powerful story involving London’s West Indian community, whose lives have been shaped by their own force of will, despite rampant racism and discrimination. 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 and hope.
Steve McQueen explains: “The seed of Small Axe was sown 11 years ago. Initially, I had conceived of it as a TV series, but I realised these stories had to stand alone as original films, yet at the same time be part of a collective. 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.”
The visionary filmmaker says the stories are as much about the past as they are the present: “Although all five films take place between the late 1960s and mid-80s, they are just as much a comment on the present moment as they were then…A commentary on where we were, where we are and where we want to go,” McQueen said.
Mangrove, which opened the London Film Festival, centres on the highly publicised 1970 trial against the ‘Mangrove Nine’ following their wrongful arrest for inciting a riot in a reign of racist terror is the first film to premiere on Binge on December 19.
Films will then drop the remaining four films each day starting with Lovers Rock (20th); Red, White and Blue (21st); Alex Wheatle (22nd) and Education (23rd).
Binge Executive Director, Alison Hurbert-Burns, said: “Binge is proud to bring such an incredible array of storytelling to Australians. Steve McQueen has passionately crafted a five-part anthology on stories that matter just as much today, as they did at the time they occurred.”
Small Axe is produced by Turbine Studios and Steve McQueen’s Lammas Park for BBC One, with Amazon Studios co-producing in the US. The series is distributed by BBC Studios.
Premiering December 19
The film, which opened the London Film Festival, centres on Frank Crichlow (Shaun Parkes), 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 (Letitia Wright) and activist Darcus Howe (Malachi Kirby) are wrongly arrested and charged with incitement to riot, a highly publicised trial ensues, leading to hard-fought win for those fighting against discrimination.
Letitia Wright (Black Panther), Shaun Parkes (Lost In Space), and Malachi Kirby (Curfew) star alongside Rochenda Sandall (Line Of Duty), Jack Lowden (The Long Song), Sam Spruell (Snow White And The Huntsmen), Gershwyn Eustache (The Gentleman), Nathaniel Martello-White (Collateral), Richie Campbell (Liar), Jumayn Hunter (Les Miserables), and Gary Beadle (Summer Of Rockets).
Mangrove was co-written by Alastair Siddons and Steve McQueen.
Premiering December 20
Lovers Rock 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.
Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn makes her screen debut opposite the Bafta’s 2020 Rising Star award recipient Micheal Ward (Top Boy). Shaniqua Okwok (Boys), Kedar Williams-Stirling (Sex Education), Ellis George (Dr Who), Alexander James-Blake (Top Boy), and Kadeem Ramsay (Blue Story) also star, as well as Francis Lovehall and Daniel Francis-Swaby who make their screen debuts.
Lovers Rock was co-written by Courttia Newland and Steve McQueen.
Red, White and Blue
Premiering December 21
Red, White and Blue 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 (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and Steve Toussaint (Prince Of Persia) star with talented newcomers Tyrone Huntley, Nathan Vidal and Jaden Oshenye.
Red, White and Blue was co-written by Courttia Newland and Steve McQueen.
Premiering December 22
Alex Wheatle follows the true story of award-winning writer, Alex Wheatle (Sheyi Cole), 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 opportunity to grow his passion for music and DJing. 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
Premiering December 23
Education the coming of age story of 12 year-old Kingsley (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 what was the unofficial segregation policy at play that is 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 (End of the F***ing World) also stars.
Education was co-written by Alastair Siddons and Steve McQueen