Small Axe Anthology
Series | English | 1 Season (5 episodes). Each episode is between 63 and 129 minutes | Original Release: 2020
The anthology, created, written and directed by Steve McQueen, consists of five individual films about the lives of West Indian immigrants in London from the ’60s to the ’80s. The title is from a proverb, “If you are a big tree, we are the small axe.” Each episode is an entirely new story with a different cast and each painfully reveals how these immigrants suffered and endured in a basically white supremacist society.
Episode #1. Mangrove. Frank Crichlow opens a Caribbean restaurant in Notting Hill that attracts the immigrant community. Violence occurs as the police close it down citing it as a hub for gambling and prostitution. In concludes with the highly-charged Mangrove Nine’s landmark Old Bailey trial. Also emerging were activists Darcus Howe and British Black Panther leader Altheia Jones-Le-Cointe.
Mangrove: Shaun Parkes (Frank Crichlow) / Malachi Kirby (Darcus Howe) / Letitia Wright (Altheia Jones-LeCointe)
Lovers Rock: Coral Messam (Choreographer)
Red, White and Blue: John Boyega (Leroy Logan) / Steve Toussaint (Leroy’s father)
Alex Wheatle: Sheyi Cole (Alex Wheatle) / Robbie Gee (Simeon)
Education: Kenyah Sandy (Kingsley) / Sharlene Whyte ( Kingsley’s mother)
Why Stream This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 94–98%
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards: Winner, Best Cinematography (Shabier Kirchner); Nominated, Best Director (Steve McQueen)
Golden Globe Awards: Nominated, Best Anthology Series
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards: Nominated, Best Picture, Best Director (Steve McQueen); Best supporting Actress (Letitia Wright); Best Cinematography (Shabier Kirchner)
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SMALL AXE is a prism, each film its own vibrant hue worth appreciating on its own, yet collectively illuminating the ways in which British Black West Indians formed neighborhoods and asserted their humanity in the face of white supremacy.
Narratively diverse but thematically intertwined, the anthology shines a sociopolitical spotlight on London’s West Indian community from the mid-’60s to the ’80s. These are McQueen’s people: born in 1960 to Caribbean parents, he has woven his own memories and family stories into a vibrant tapestry of immigrant dignity and determination.
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