Steve McQueen’s rousing 5-part film series ‘Small Axe’ is set to be released weekly starting November 20th on Amazon. These pugnacious and sensual films highlight the experiences of West Indian people in London in the 70s and 80s. Three of the features premiered at the New York Film Festival to great acclaim, building a wave of anticipation for their wide release.
‘Lovers Rock’ feels like a tone poem, a love letter to Black folks, dancing, and the power of music to embolden and organize communities. It’s euphoric and warm and has a filmic language all its own, a sort-of fly on the wall experience interspersed with moments of racial conflict and impending doom. It’s inspired and confident and romantic as all hell, a love story told through looks, sounds, and feelings, an intoxicating POV. Check out our interview with star Amarah-Jae St Aubyn above!
The Knockturnal: There is this parallel between Mangrove and Lovers Rock — people seeing Mangrove as political but I saw Lovers Rock as political too in the sense that it celebrates joy for Black people. Is that something that you agree with or do you see it as political, too?
Amarah-Jae St Aubyn: Yeah I understand you with that one especially because the whole thing with this was the Black community coming together to celebrate the Black culture because they were not allowed to in the White night clubs. This was them celebrating in a way and celebrating our culture despite that. So I do agree with you on that one.
The Knockturnal: The joy is palpable and you sort of wonder is that parallel when you’re shooting it? A lot of these scenes are probably more silent than we think when they are being shot.
Amarah-Jae St Aubyn: There were quite a lot of moments when we had the music. We got to work with an incredible choreographer who got us to understand energy and where the energy is held. It’s heavy in the feet and you’re connected to the earth. She worked with the supporting artist because I think they’re key in this. She got them in a room before filming she said: I can’t just have them in costume and go on set. They need to understand this energy. She got the music blazing and worked with them for a while. I remember walking on to set and seeing everyone in costume and everyone living it. This is really what my parents were talking about those times and this is how it was. You’re seeing on screen that no one is faking that, everyone was feeling it and that’s so beautiful.
The Knockturnal: What were your conversations with Steve about developing this character? How did you approach it?
Amarah-Jae St Aubyn: The first thing that I did was research the time and from there I was able to discuss Martha’s likes and dislikes and opinions, inspirations, her favorite color, and stuff like that. Just speaking more with Steve he was very much about you bringing your truth to it and how you feel about it. I spoke with my mom more than anything because my mom came from Jamaica when she was nine, so to speak with her and to hear stories about her life. My dad is a reggae artist and heard things from him. I think with Steve he was just so open and trusting with it as long as you are staying true to his beliefs. He was very much all for openness.
Amarah-Jae St Aubyn: The movie ends and you’re with your co-star Michael and I kept thinking I would love to see more of this story. I don’t even have a question I’m just like can we do it again?
Amarah-Jae St Aubyn: It would be lovely to see what happens next with those two [Martha and Michael] but, there’s nothing at the moment as far as I know. It’s nice to leave it to the imagination as well. It was just a beautiful time filming it, it was beautiful to see it. It’s a beautiful thing we created. Steve is a genius. The whole cast was incredible; I was very lucky to work with the people that I worked with, and I pray that the next job is just as incredible.
The movie premieres this Friday, November 27 on Amazon Prime.