Great news: Black British drama is soon to be bolstered by five new films. Earlier today (August 7), the BBC dropped its trailer for Mangrove, the first of five anthology films from new series Small Axe. Directed by the acclaimed Steve McQueen, Mangrove tells the true story of the 1970s Mangrove protests, when Black people demonstrated against police harassment in West London.
The trailer sees Black Panther's Letitia Wright leading protesters chanting "enough is enough" before they're arrested in dramatic scenes. These real-life pivotal protests led to the arrests of nine innocent men and women charged with incitement to riot, who later became known as the 'Mangrove Nine.' The landmark case helped to expose racism within the Metropolitan Police. As the BBC writes, they changed British history "by taking a stand against racial discrimination."
Speaking about Mangrove, director McQueen spoke of why it was important to revisit this moment in British history:
“Sunday, August 9 is 50 years since the Mangrove March, which led to nine innocent black women and men being arrested. It was a march necessitated by relentless police brutality in Notting Hill. To commemorate the bravery of these community activists and the nine who went on to be acquitted of incitement to riot with the judge citing 'evidence of racial hatred.'"
Starring alongside Letitia Wright is Shaun Parkes (Lost in Space), Malachi Kirby (Curfew), Rochenda Sandall (Line of Duty), Jack Lowden (Mary Queen of Scots), and more.
Following the release of the first film, Small Axe will debut four more stories from London's West Indian community, spanning the 1960s until the 1980s. All of the films will showcase those "whose lives have been shaped by their own force of will" despite rampant racism and discrimination.
Some may notice that the series shares its name with the famous Bob Marley & The Wailers' song, which was derived from an African proverb: “If you are the big tree, we are the small axe”.
In current times, the new films will make for important viewing.
Small Axe will premiere on BBC One and iPlayer this Autumn. The series will be streamed on Amazon Prime in the U.S.