“If you are the big tree, we are the small axe,” states a Jamaican proverb, inspiring the title of “Small Axe”, an upcoming anthology series from director Steve McQueen for Amazon Prime Video.
The series is comprised of “five original films set from the late 1960s to the mid 1980s that tell personal stories from London’s West Indian community, whose lives have been shaped by their own force of will despite rampant racism and discrimination.” Inspired by actual events, the films showcase “ordinary people showing courage, belief, and resilience to overcome injustice and achieve something transformative in their West Indian community.”
A new episode will debut each Friday, beginning on Nov. 20 with “Mangrove”. In the series opener, Shaun Parkes stars as Frank Crichlow, the owner of Notting Hill’s Caribbean restaurant, Mangrove, a lively community base for locals, intellectuals and activists in 1970. When the local police continually raid the restaurant, Frank and the local community take to the streets in a peaceful protest, resulting in nine men and women — including Frank and leader of the British Black Panther Movement Altheia Jones-LeCointe (Letitia Wright) — are wrongfully arrested and charged with incitement to riot, resulting in a headline-making trial.
Other films include “Lovers Rock”, “Education”, “Alex Wheatle” and “Red White and Blue”, with the latter starring John Boyega as a young forensic scientist. When he witnesses his father assaulted by police, he revisits a childhood ambition to become a police officer in hopes of changing racist attitudes from within.
“Small Axe” will air in Canada in early 2021.