Door 19: Small Axe

That history is written one-sided is nothing new, so it is always refreshing, if it gets a broader view, especially if it is done an a popcultural level. Concerning Britain and Black communities this is mastered by the series Small Axe, who puts a neglected past into the spotlight.

The director, Steve McQueen, who is known for his Oscar winning film 12 Years a Slave, pitched the series initially to the BBC as a episodical series in 2010. But soon realized that he had enough material for multiple films, so turned it into an anthology series of 5 independent movies, four true stories and one imagined.

Each of the individual films, Mangrove, Lovers Rock, Red, White and Blue, Alex Wheatle and Education, deals with problems that Afro-Caribbean neighborhoods faced in Britain from the 1960s to the 1980s. Subject-wise it ranges from real struggles like police brutality to court trials to an observation of a party.

The title of the series comes from an West-Indian proverb "If you are the big tree, we are the small axe" that was popularized by Bob Marley in the song of the same name. Encapsulating the common theme throughout the series, the fight against something that seems bigger than the individual.

Director McQueen co-wrote each of the films with either Courttia Newland or Alastair Siddons. The scenes were skillfully captured by the Antiguan cinematographer Shabier Kirchner.

The series is beautifully supported by a suiting soundtrack consisting of music of the era like Janet Kay's Silly Games or Al Green's How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?, but also features contributions by yesterday's entry Mica Levi.