Steve McQueen does it again, but this time through SMALL AXE, a collection of five films. Amazon Prime presented a drive-thru experience this past weekend in Los Angeles, which fully immersed the guests into these powerful stories.
As vehicles arrived at the drive-thru, live musicians kicked off the event and immediately filled the space with live ambient music. Directly up ahead, there was a set up of the one and only Mangrove restaurant, and what better way to follow up a visit to the Mangrove than with a freshly served Jamaican veggie patty from A Beautiful Life food truck. If that wasn’t enough, attendees were given a West Indian-inspired Meal Kit for two by Chef Nyesha Arrington featuring organic ingredients to prepare at home.
Part of the experience was driving by a beautiful set piece that showcased the SMALL AXE collection, highlighting each individual premiere date and previewing notable movie scenes. Knowing a picture-perfect moment when you see one, a photographer was on-site to capture your premiere experience from your car. Before leaving the event everyone received a copy of the custom Small Axe Zine, featuring inspirational stories and essays from Black activists and writers.
SMALL AXE is a collection of five films: Mangrove, Lovers Rock, Red White, and Blue, Alex Wheatle, Education.
MANGROVE (Premieres Friday, November 20)
Mangrove 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 publicized trial ensues, leading to hard-fought win for those fighting against discrimination. Letitia Wright (Black Panther), Shaun Parkes (Lost in Space), and Malachi Kirby (Curfew) star alongside Rochenda Sandall (Line of Duty), Jack Lowden (The Long Song), Sam Spruell (Snow White and the Huntsmen), Gershwyn Eustache (The Gentleman), Nathaniel Martello-White (Collateral), Richie Campbell (Liar), Jumayn Hunter (Les Miserables), and Gary Beadle (Summer of Rockets). Mangrove was co-written by Alastair Siddons and Steve McQueen.
LOVERS ROCK (Premieres Friday, November 27)
Lovers Rock tells a fictional story of young love at a Blues party in 1980. The film is an ode to the romantic reggae genre called “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. Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn makes her screen debut opposite the BAFTAs 2020 Rising Star award recipient Micheal Ward (Top Boy). Shaniqua Okwok (Boys), Kedar Williams-Stirling (Sex Education), Ellis George (Dr Who), Alexander James-Blake (Top Boy), and Kadeem Ramsay (Blue Story) also star, as well as Francis Lovehall and Daniel Francis-Swaby who make their screen debuts. Lovers Rock was co-written by Courttia Newland and Steve McQueen.
RED, WHITE AND BLUE (Premieres Friday, December 4)
Red, White, and Blue tell 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 naïve 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. John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and Steve Toussaint (Prince of Persia) star with talented newcomers Tyrone Huntley, Nathan Vidal and Jaden Oshenye. Red, White and Blue was co-written by Courttia Newland and Steve McQueen.
ALEX WHEATLE (Premieres Friday, December 11)
Alex Wheatle 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 ability 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. Sheyi Cole stars opposite Jonathan Jules. Alex Wheatle was co-written by Alastair Siddons and Steve McQueen.
EDUCATION (Premieres Friday, December 18)
Education is the coming of age story of 12-year-old Kingsley, a boy with a fascination for astronauts and rockets. When Kingsley is called to the Headmaster’s office for disruptive behavior in class, he is shocked to discover his transfer to a school for those with “special needs.” Distracted by working two jobs, his parents are unaware of what was an unofficial segregation policy at play, preventing many Black children from having the education they deserve until a group of West Indian women takes matters into their own hands. Newcomer Kenyah Sandy stars opposite Sharlene Whyte (We Hunt Together, Casualty), Daniel Francis (Once Upon A Time, Homefront), Tamara Lawrance (The Long Song, Kindred), and Josette Simon (Wonder Woman, Silent Witness, Law & Order: UK). Education was co-written by Alastair Siddons and Steve McQueen.