Director Steve McQueen is looking to follow up his five-film anthology series, Small Axe, with a new series of documentaries focusing on some of the most pivotal moments of Black British history. The 12 Years a Slave helmer released Small Axe last year, which comprised of a quintet of stories set in London between the 1960s and 1980s and told the stories of different West Indian immigrants living there. The new documentaries will take a closer look at the themes and events that feature in the Small Axe films, and will be released on Amazon Prime in September.
The three documentary movies have all received an individual synopsis. The first of the trio of features is Uprising, and rather than being one movie it is made up of three episodes lasting one hour each, which combine to tell the story of the racial issues that were faced in the early 1980s in the UK. The synopsis reads, “Uprising is a vivid and visceral three-part documentary series (comprised of three hour-long episodes) examining three events from 1981 in the UK: The New Cross Fire that killed 13 Black youths, the Black People’s Day of Action, which saw more than 20,000 people join the first organized mass protest by Black British people, and the Brixton riots. Uprising will reveal how these three events are intertwined, and how, in the process, race relations were defined for a generation.”
The second film is Black Power: A British Story of Resistance, a 90 minute look at the people who led the charge against racism and helped the rise of Black Power. Including archive footage of some of the most influential leaders in Civil Rights like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr and Stokely Carmichael’s work in the UK along with those leading the movement on British soil such as Darcus Howe and Roy Sawh. The second synopsis states, “Black Power: A British Story of Resistance, directed by BAFTA-nominated director George Amponsah, is a searing 90-minute account of the Black Power movement in Britain. The documentary examines how the Black Power movement came into being in the UK in the late 1960s and fought back against police brutality and racism, challenging the British establishment and helping to shape a new political and cultural landscape in the UK.”
The last of the trio is Subnormal: A British Scandal, a look at a time when the education system in the UK hit a low when it came to the education of Black children. While the expose is something that could also be applied to the education system in the US, who have had similar issues, it is described as “an hour-long documentary examining one of the biggest scandals in the history of British education, where Black children in the 1960s and ’70s were disproportionately sent to schools for the so-called “educationally subnormal.” It explores the controversial debates on race and intelligence that led to the scandal, the devastating impact it had on the children affected, and illuminates how Black parents, teachers, and activists banded together to expose the injustice and force the British educational system to change.”
In an official statement, McQueen said that it had been “an honor” to work with the people he has to make these documentaries possible, and with someone like Amazon clearly behind the project, it is likely not the last time we see McQueen working on the small screen to shine a light on history in this way. All three documentaries are available from September 17 on Amazon Prime.