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Small Axe

Small Axe

  • Premiered: 
    November 15, 2020
    (Click date to see TV listings for that day)

  • Network: BBC1
  • Category: Series
  • Genre: Anthology
  • Type: Live Action
  • Concept: 
  • Subject Matter:
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    Season 1

Plot Synopsis

Set from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, SMALL AXE is a series of weekly films from filmmaker Steve McQueen that each 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 2020.

McQueen explains: "The seed of SMALL AXE was sown 11 years ago. Initially, I had conceived of it as a TV series, but I realized 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."

These five films have their world premiere in the UK on BBC One and BBC iPlayer, followed by their U.S. premiere on Amazon Prime:

"Mangrove" (U.S. premiere on Friday, November 20, 2020): The film, which opens the London Film Festival, centers 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. Also starring: Rochenda Sandall, Jack Lowden, Sam Spruell, Gershwyn Eustache, Nathaniel Martello-White, Richie Campbell, Jumayn Hunter, and Gary Beadle. Co-written by Alastair Siddons and Steve McQueen.

"Lovers Rock" (U.S. premiere on Friday, November 27, 2020): Telling 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. Starring: Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn, Micheal Ward, Shaniqua Okwok, Kedar Williams-Stirling, Ellis George, Alexander James-Blake, Kadeem Ramsay, Francis Lovehall, and Daniel Francis-Swaby. Co-written by Courttia Newland and Steve McQueen.

"Red, White and Blue" (U.S. premiere on Friday, December 4, 2020): The film 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 naive 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. Starring: John Boyega, Steve Toussaint, Tyrone Huntley, Nathan Vidal and Jaden Oshenye. Co-written by Courttia Newland and Steve McQueen.

"Alex Wheatle" (U.S. premiere on Friday, December 11, 2020): The film 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. Also stars Jonathan Jules. Co-written by Alastair Siddons and Steve McQueen.

"Education" (U.S. premiere on Friday, December 18, 2020): 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. Also stars Naomi Ackie. Co-written by Alastair Siddons and Steve McQueen.


  • - London UK