Small Axe

Released 15 November - 13 December 2020

Set from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, Academy Award, Bafta and Golden Globe-winning filmmaker, Steve McQueen's five films each tell a story involving London’s West Indian community, whose lives have been shaped by their own force of will, despite rampant racism and discrimination. Even though this collection of films is set some decades ago, the stories are as vital and timely today as they were for the West Indian community in London at the time.

Small Axe is a celebration of Black joy, beauty, love, friendship, family, music and even food; each one, in its own unique way, conveys hard-won successes, bringing hope and optimism for 2020.

Small Axe films

  • MangroveIn a reign of racist terror, the local police raid Mangrove time after time, making Frank and the local community take to the streets in peaceful protest in 1970. When nine men and women, including Frank and leader of the British Black Panther Movement Altheia Jones-LeCointe (Letitia Wright) and activist Darcus Howe (Malachi Kirby) are wrongly arrested and charged with incitement to riot, a highly publicised trial ensues, leading to hard-fought win for those fighting against discrimination.
  • Lover's RockLovers Rock tells a fictional story of young love at a Blues party in 1980. The film is an ode to the romantic reggae genre, Lovers Rock, and to the Black youth who found freedom and love in its sound in London house parties when they were unwelcome in white nightclubs.
  • Red, White and BlueRed, White and Blue tells the true story of Leroy Logan, a young forensic scientist with a yearning to do more than his solitary laboratory work. When he sees his father assaulted by two policemen, he finds himself driven to revisiting a childhood ambition to become a police officer - an ambition borne from the naïve hope of wanting to change racist attitudes from within.
  • Alex WheatleHaving spent his childhood in a mostly white institutional care home with no love or family, Alex Wheatle (Sheyi Cole) finally finds not only a sense of community for the first time in Brixton, but his identity and opportunity 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.
  • EducationWhen 12 year-old Kingsley (Kenyah Sandy) is pulled to the Headmaster’s office for being disruptive in class, he discovers he’s being sent to school for those with 'special needs'. Distracted by working two jobs, his parents (Sharlene Whyte, Daniel Francis) are unaware of what was the unofficial segregation policy at play that is preventing many Black children from having the education they deserve - until a group of West Indian women take matters into their own hands.


  • John Boyega - Best Performance By An Actor In A Television Supporting Role, RED, WHITE AND BLUE

Directed by:

Steve McQueen

Executive Producers:

Tracey Scoffield, David Tanner, Steve McQueen, Mike Elliot, Anita Overland, Lucy Richer, Rose Garnett

Distributed by:

BBC One (UK), Amazon Studios (U.S.), BBC Studios (international)

Release dates:

15 November - 13 December 2020