Steve McQueen’s five-part film anthology, Small Axe at the BFI this month

A weekend dedicated to director Steve McQueen’s five-part film anthology, Small Axe, will be held at the BFI this month, writes Alexandra Warren.

Taking place at BFI Southbank from October 22 to 24, the event will present all five films in the anthology on the big screen.

Special guests including Mr McQueen and producers Tracey Scoffield and David Tanner, are set to attend for panel discussions and Q&As about the making of the films.

The weekend will include a Lover Rock After Party, at Royal Festival Hall, where top DJs will spin the tunes that influenced a generation.

Directed by Goldsmiths University graduate Mr McQueen and written with Courttia Newland and Alastair Siddons, the films that comprise Small Axe are a love letter to black resilience, joy, beauty, love, friendship, family, music and food.

The five movies are anchored in the experiences of London’s West Indian community from the 1960s through to the mid-1980s, a community whose lives were shaped by their own force of will, despite rampant racism and discrimination.

The weekend will begin on October 22 with a screening of Mangrove followed by a Q&A with Mr McQueen.

Steve McQueen’s five-part film anthology, Small Axe at the BFI this month

The film, which opened the 64th BFI London Film Festival, tells the true story of Frank Crichlow , whose West Indian restaurant becomes the focal point in a landmark legal battle against blatant discrimination and harassment by the Met.

The film serves as a critique of the power structures that oppressed the West Indian community of Notting Hill, leading to protests and the famous Mangrove Nine Trial.

Also screening on the opening night of the weekend will be Lovers Rock.

This beautifully realised fable of young love and music at a house party in the 1980s is a collective reimagining of a time and place very precious to West Indian Londoners.

On October 23, Steve McQueen will be joined by his producers Ms Scoffield and Mr Tanner for an insightful look at the making of Small Axe.

Also screening on October 23 is Red, White and Blue, which tells the true story of Met Superintendent Leroy Logan.

Mr McQueen’s film focuses on a young Logan, who joins the Met in the naïve belief that he can change attitudes from within, only to be met with vicious racism from his colleagues.

The film Alex Wheatle will also be shown, which is based on the extraordinary life of the award-winning novelist, who was a writing consultant on the films.

Growing up in a white institutional care system devoid of love, Wheatle found his own path towards a spiritual and political awakening into black consciousness through his passion for music and DJing, and a connection to Brixton’s multifaceted Caribbean community.

The film shows that, against all odds, he transcended an immensely difficult childhood to forge his own success.

The final film in the Small Axe anthology, Education, will be screened on October 24.

This coming-of-age story follows 12-year-old Kingsley Smith, who’s shocked to discover he will be transferred to a school for the so-called ‘Educationally Sub-Normal’ after being accused of disruptive behaviour.

With his distracted parents working multiple jobs to make ends meet, it falls to a group of West Indian women to take matters into their own hands and uncover the appalling unofficial segregation policy at play.


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