Two of Britain’s most successful Hollywood exports join forces for BBC1’s compelling new drama series Small Axe, which brings to the screen five stories about racial discrimination and inspirational figures in the black community.
Acclaimed director Steve McQueen, who won an Oscar for 12 Years a Slave, is behind the camera for the series, and he’s joined by Star Wars actor John Boyega (see panel, right) to tell powerful stories of how London’s West Indian community fought bitter persecution from the authorities between the late 1960s and mid-1980s.
‘I recall each of these stories being told to me by my parents or my aunt,’ says McQueen, who also co-wrote all five films. ‘But I also experienced racial discrimination myself growing up.’
McQueen says the stories are dedicated to George Floyd, whose death sparked the Black Lives Matter protests and any other black people who have been ‘murdered seen or unseen’ in the US, UK, and elsewhere.
‘The title of the series comes from a West Indian proverb, “If you are the big tree, we are the small axe,”’ he explains. ‘These are all our stories. I feel personally touched by every one of them and they’re just as much a comment on the present moment as they are about the past. They are set decades ago, but are concerned with the present.’
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