With his bold and multifaceted Small Axe anthology, Steve McQueen has made the films of the moment. Three of the five films — Lovers Rock, Mangrove, and Red, White and Blue — have premiered to a great reception at the NYFF. The films capture vividly the lives of London’s West Indian community in the 1970s and ’80s and their force of will against systemic racism and discrimination. “I dedicate these films to George Floyd, and all the other black people that have been murdered, seen or unseen, because of who they are, in the U.S., U.K. and elsewhere,” the director said in May.
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.
I had the immense pleasure of getting to sit down with Sheyi Cole, the star of Alex Wheatle, to talk his rising career, as well as the importance of covering the histories of Afro-Caribbean communities in London. The first three films of the anthology (Mangrove, Lovers Rock, and Red, White and Blue) are available now on Amazon Prime, while Alex Wheatle premieres this Friday, 12/11, followed by Education on 12/18. You can find my full conversation with Sheyi below.