Small Axe Anthology Trailer

If you haven’t seen this series, you should. It is excellent!! ~ V


“If you are the big tree, we are the small axe.” – Jamaican proverb.

Small Axe is a collection of five films inspired by real-life events about ordinary people showing courage, belief, and resilience to overcome injustice and achieve something transformative in their West Indian community.

The television debut by Academy Award winning director Steve McQueen.

Small Axe Anthology Trailer ~ Video via Amazon Prime Video

“If you are the big tree, we are the small axe.”

The Jamaican proverb — from which Steve McQueen’s new five-part Amazon anthology series, Small Axe, takes its name — is a bold statement of defiance.

The phrase, which was popularized by Bob Marley in 1973, echoes a biblical story in which John the Baptist sees the oppressive religious leaders of his time approaching and calls them a “brood of vipers” who refuse to repent.

The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. ~ Steve McQueen

In other words, if you’ve been hurting those you’re supposed to serve and you refuse to repent, your days are numbered.

That McQueen looked to this proverb to title his series of films highlights the director’s aims. McQueen started developing Small Axe a long time ago, before he became the first Black director of a Best Picture winner at the Oscars. (His film 12 Years a Slave won in 2013.) He wanted to explore the lives of the West Indian community in London. And, as he recently told the New York Times, McQueen — a Brit of Grenadian and Trinidadian heritage — wanted to “understand myself, where I came from.”

The result morphed over time from a TV series into something resembling a set of feature films, each one wholly distinct from the others in casting, plot, time period, and, in some cases, even visual sensibility; they’re shot in a range of formats and feel tonally different. (McQueen worked with two co-writers — Courttia Newland on two of the episodes, and Alastair Siddons on the other three — but he directed all five.)

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