"If you are the big tree, we are the small axe, sharpened to cut you down."
These lines, from Bob Marley's song "Small Axe," ring out over the closing moments of the new trailer for Steve McQueen's Small Axe — and encapsulate the timely nature of the anthology series. A collection of five films, all co-written and directed by the 12 Years a Slave director, Small Axe tells five different stories focusing on London’s West Indian community, whose lives have been shaped by their own force of will despite rampant racism and discrimination.
The trailer features footage from all five entries, showcasing the films' distinct visual styles and their common themes. Mangrove stars Letitia Wright as British Black Panther leader Altheia Jones-LeCointe, who, along with eight other Black activists, was arrested and charged with inciting a riot after a peaceful protest in 1970. Lovers Rock tells a fictional story of young love at a Blues party in 1980, in an ode to the titular romantic reggae genre. Education is a coming-of-age tale centered around 12-year-old Kingsley (Kenyah Sandy), who is subjected to an unofficial segregation policy preventing many Black children from receiving the education they deserve. Alex Wheatle tells the true story of award-winning writer Alex Wheatle (Sheyi Cole), as he finds a sense of community for the first time and is later imprisoned during 1981's Brixton Uprising. Finally, Red, White and Blue tells another true story, that of Leroy Logan (John Boyega), who at a young age saw his father assaulted by two policemen, motivating him to join the Metropolitan Police and change their racist attitudes from within.
“These are very much British stories that have never been told,” McQueen told EW of the films. “Some of these stories have shaped the environment that we live in now. I wanted to tell what was necessary, important, and urgent.”
Lovers Rock recently premiered to acclaim at this year's (virtual) New York Film Festival, with Mangrove and Red, White and Blue to screen over the next two weeks. The series will debut on Amazon Prime Video in the U.S. with Mangrove on Nov. 20, and the other four entries will drop on the streaming service weekly.
You can watch the full trailer above.