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Steve McQueen explores Britain’s Caribbean heritage in “Little Axe”



It took Steve McQueen a long time to make a movie about black British life.

When talking about his new project “Little Axe”, the director said: “I need to understand myself and where I come from.” “Sometimes, you must have a certain degree of maturity, and 10 or 15 years ago, I Not that mature.”

McQueen was born in West London to the parents of Grenadian and Trinidadian. He is one of the most talented and wreathed black filmmakers in the UK. He is the most well-known director among American audiences. He was the director of the star-studded “Widow”

; in 2018 and the director of “Twelve Years of Slave” in 2013. For this reason, he became the first black director to win an Oscar for Best Picture . When he won the trophy, McQueen was already working with the BBC to develop a drama project, which would become a “small axe.”

Six years later, instead of the first film, McQueen screened a film about all aspects of London’s West India community. These are five films, scheduled from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, in the United States as Amazon Prime Video. The anthology will be broadcast from Friday.

When the development of “Little Axe” started, the project was put on the BBC as a regular TV and told a story in about six hours (Amazon signed a contract with a production partner last year.) McQueen said in a telephone interview in Amsterdam that this is An occasional situation, he has been living in Amsterdam since 1997. “But then I realized that they must be independent films because there is so much material.”

Today, the finished product contains five discrete works of different lengths (the shortest is 70 minutes; the longest is 128 minutes), all directed and co-written by McQueen. (Courttia Newland co-authored two episodes and Alastair Siddons co-authored three episodes.)

These works were shot by emerging Antigua photographer Shabier Kirchner in various formats (including 16mm and 35mm film)-the first three premiered at this year’s New York Film Festival. Films include epic scales, fact-based court dramas (“Mangroves”), exquisite semi-autobiographical portraits (“Education”) and intimate prom mood films (“Lovers Rock”), in which tones and textures vary widely. between.

The series will be broadcast in the UK on BBC One, which is very important for McQueen. He said: “For me, it is important for these films to be shown on the BBC because they can be used by everyone in the country.” “These are national history.”

The “Mangroves” of the series’ opener focused on the sensational trial of a group of black radicals in 1971. They are accused of inciting riots during the targeted harassment of police by the London Police Department’s Caribbean restaurant “Mangrove” in Notting Hill, London. The area is a hub for the flourishing of black intellectuals and artists. (This film corrects Richard Curtis’s 1999 romantic comedy “Notting Hill” (Notting Hill) whitewash fantasy. Political parties-defeated the allegations of riots, they forced the British police to racially for the first time Doctrine for judicial recognition.

This period In view of the recent Windrush scandal in the United Kingdom is particularly resonant, the scandal caused hundreds of Commonwealth citizens to be detained, deported and deprived of their legal rights for the 2012 government’s policy of creating a “hostile environment” for immigrants.

Most of the victims of the scandal were part of the “Influence Generation” who were mostly Caribbean. They were invited by the British colonial government to help rebuild the economy after World War II. (The name comes from Empire Windrush, which brought an early team from the Caribbean to the United Kingdom in 1948.) After arriving in the United Kingdom, many members of this cohort faced hostility, discrimination in employment and housing, and police harassment. However, as a “small axe” Demonstration, they found a way to organize and resist.

Following the climax sequence of the “mangrove”, Darcus Howe (Magnetic Malachi Kirby), who appeared in court on behalf of the court, declared that the case “corroded the consciousness of the black community to a certain extent. As a result, British history cannot be written now.” This is a chilling line that makes me feel frustrated: in fact, mainstream British history largely excludes the story of mangrove defendants and other pioneer black figures. story.

Actress Letitia Wright, who was born in Guyana and moved to London at the age of 7, said in a telephone interview that she did not realize the story of the mangroves before studying the project. After a meeting, McQueen and actor director Gary Davy (Gary Davy) co-produced the film for her. , And there is no regular audition.

“To be honest, I don’t have any clues-it’s not in the school textbook. The stronghold of Black History Month [October] It’s American history in the UK,” Wright said, playing the role of Altheia Jones-LeCointe, the founder of the British Panther Movement. “Martin Luther King on the poster. ) And Malcolm X (Malcolm X) are mostly me, and I have always been honored and respected them “but you don’t have Altheias.”

This role makes Wright play the Black Panther in real life. Jones-LeCointe (Jones-LeCointe) was born in Trinidad and moved to the UK in 1965 to pursue a PhD degree. In the field of biochemistry, the poet Linton Kwesi Johnson described it as “the most outstanding woman I have ever seen.”

The pride of the Caribbean supports the “little axe.” The animated McQueen shakes the reputation of the resistance idol with West Indian heritage. This information informs his life and work: “Stokely of Trinidad Stokely Carmichael coined the term “black power.” Look at Marcus Garvey. Malcolm X’s mother is from Grenada. CLR James,” he said. “This is nothing new, people from the West Indies and our influence. That’s where we come from: treason.”

The title of the anthology comes from an African proverb, which was written by Bob Marley’s 1973 song of the same name (“If you are a big tree, we are a small axe”) and an English-Guyan scholar Paul Gilro Ye (Paul Gilroy) was popular in Jamaica together, the latter proposed “Trans-Atlantic blacks, blacks, African, American, Caribbean and British cultures immediately became series consultants. For me, the grandchildren of the Caribbean, their grandparents are Part of the Windrush generation, on this scale, respect and represent the lattice structure of the island provided by the “small axe”, Sometimes feel overwhelmed.

However, the painful aspects of the “small axe” are equally overwhelming, especially After the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, the protests and subsequent public conversations revolved around police brutality and the abolition of police. The third film in the series is “Red, White and Blue” set in the early 1980s. It is played by John Boyega as the real character Leroy Logan. After his father beat him severely, he gave up his career in studying science in the London Police Force. Logan believes that the military can be reformed during a time when the tension between the police and the black British community has never been so tense.

Watching this seriously, it can be said that the naive character is portrayed by an actor is shocking, and it is a bit surreal. The actor made the headlines in June for giving a fierce speech condemning police brutality in Hyde Park, London. “This is crazy,” Boyga said in a telephone interview, adding that people asked him if he was selected as a “small axe” because of his role in the “Black Life Issues” movement, even though the project It was over before the protest.

Boyga said: “People talk about the different types of racism that blacks deal with, and often expect that racism in the US is external and expressionless, while in the UK there are various subtle levels.” It’s cool to discuss this conversation in a healthy way.”

When asked about George Floyd and the protests, McQueen answered wearily. He said: “I’m just tired.” In the UK, “It took a long time for people to believe what was happening in the West Indian community. Suddenly, we were believed. A person died in the most terrible way. A pandemic was over. Millions of people marched in the street, and the general public began to think “this matter may be related to racism.” “”

“If you don’t laugh, you cry,” he added. “This is how we handle it.”

Jones-LeCointe and his defendant Barbara Beese (Rochenda Sandall) were exhausted by the absurdity of the trial at the end of the “mangrove” Laughter. McQueen admitted that making the “small axe” is also an exciting roller coaster, and he is still working on it.

He said: “The other day, I just cried when thinking of my father.” “My father doesn’t see this here-many West Indians of that era lived and died without being recognized. And still heavy.”

“But we have a future!” he shouted, shining. “That’s the main thing.” In the beautiful “Little Axe”,” The past is the future, and that future is the present.


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