What’s next from Steve McQueen? Not just a movie, but five movies. The Widows director has something on the horizon called the Small Axe Anthology, featuring five different movies, with cast members including John Boyega, Letitia Wright, and more. America will have a first look at what McQueen has in store thanks to the New York Film Festival, which will open with Small Axe installment Lovers Rock. In addition to that, two other films from the anthology – Mangrove and Red, White and Blue – will also have their world premiers at the festival.
While some film festivals this year have given in to defeat and canceled, the New York Film Festival is still hoping to make things work. The 58th edition of the NYFF will have outdoor and virtual screenings with indoor screenings as possible and directed by state and health officials, as well as two drive-ins: the Queens Drive-In at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, created by Rooftop Films, the New York Hall of Science, and Museum of the Moving Image; and the Brooklyn Drive-In at The Brooklyn Army Terminal, created by Rooftop Films and the New York City Economic Development Corporation.
And now we know what the opening night film will be: Lovers Rock, an installment from Steve McQueen’s Small Axe Anthology. The five films that make up Small Axe are Mangrove, Lovers Rock, Alex Wheatle, Education and Red, White and Blue, and Mangrove and Red, White and Blue will play at the fest as well. The anthology will premiere on BBC One later this year and air on Amazon Prime Video in the US. The films are set from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, and “each tell a different story involving London’s West Indian community, whose lives have been shaped by their own force of will despite rampant racism and discrimination.”
Here’s the synopsis for Lovers Rock:
Lovers Rock tells a fictional story of young love and music at a blues party in the early 1980s. Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn makes her screen debut opposite the BAFTAs 2020 Rising Star award recipient Micheal Ward (Top Boy). Shaniqua Okwok (Boys), Kedar Williams-Stirling (Sex Education), Ellis George (Doctor Who), Alexander James-Blake (Top Boy), Kadeem Ramsay (Blue Story) also star, as well as Francis Lovehall and Daniel Francis-Swaby, who make their screen debuts. Lovers Rock was co-written by Courttia Newland and Steve McQueen.
As for the other two films playing the fest, Mangrove tells the true story of the Mangrove 9, “a group of Black activists who clashed with London police during a protest march in 1970, and the highly publicized trial that followed. The trial was the first judicial acknowledgment of behavior motivated by racial hatred within the Metropolitan Police.” The cast includes Letitia Wright, Shaun Parkes, Malachi Kirby, Rochenda Sandall, Jack Lowden, Sam Spruell, Gershwyn Eustache Jnr, Nathaniel Martello-White, Richie Campbell, Jumayn Hunter, and Gary Beadle.
Red, White and Blue, meanwhile, focuses on “the true story of Leroy Logan, who saw his father assaulted by two policemen, motivating him to join the Metropolitan Police and change their racist attitudes from within.” The cast for that film includes John Boyega, Steve Toussaint, Tyrone Huntley, Nathan Vidal, and Jaden Oshenye.
“It’s an incredible honor and also very humbling to show three of my films at the New York Film Festival. It’s especially meaningful for me at this particular time to share these stories as a Black man of West Indian heritage. I’m grateful to the NYFF for their generosity and wish everyone a safe and healthy festival,” said Steve McQueen.
The New York Film Festival runs from September 25 through October 11.
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