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PRODUCTION / FUNDING UK

Steve McQueen to follow up Small Axe with an Uprising

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- The director’s latest BBC project is a three-part documentary series, focusing on three events in 1981 which would have a pivotal effect on British race relations

Steve McQueen to follow up Small Axe with an Uprising
Director Steve McQueen and actor John Boyega on the set of Small Axe

Following on from the global acclaim for his anthology series Small Axe, British filmmaker and artist Steve McQueen will re-team with the BBC for a new three-part documentary entitled Uprising.

Co-directed by producer James Rogan, the new series will focus on three important events all taking place in the year 1981: the January 1981 New Cross Fire, a fire at a party in the South London suburb that killed 13 young people; the Black People’s Day of Action two months later, the first organised protest by Black Britons, with 20,000 people flooding the streets; and the April Brixton riots, also known as the Brixton uprising, a confrontation between Metropolitan police and protesters that would live long in the cultural memory. These events formed the backdrop to the fourth Small Axe chapter, ‘Alex Wheatle’; the episode featured an emotive, black-and-white archival photo montage depicting the riots about halfway through.

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This doubles down on McQueen’s commitment to continue the historical reclamation project he begun with Small Axe. He is also producing two follow-up documentaries that further expand on the series, directed by two up-and-coming Black British directors. They are Black Power: A British Story of Resistance, directed by BAFTA winner George Amponsah (The Hard Stop [+see also:
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), and Subnormal by Lyttanya Shannon, expanding on the Small Axe entries ‘Mangrove’ [+see also:
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and ‘Education’ respectively. The original series itself was recently nominated for six BAFTA awards.

“It is an honour to make these films with testimonials from the survivors, investigators, activists and representatives of the machinery of state,” said McQueen. “We can only learn if we look at things through the eyes of everyone concerned; the New Cross Fire passed into history as a tragic footnote, but that event and its aftermath can now be seen as momentous events in our nation’s history.”

“It has been an honour to work with Steve McQueen to bring these powerful stories to BBC One,” added the BBC1 chief content officer Charlotte Moore, who commissioned the series. “With his visionary genius as a filmmaker he has created an incredibly important and evocative series that charts events that have defined race relations in Britain today, giving a voice to the people at the heart of these stories.”

McQueen will also executive produce Uprising, which is being made by Rogan Productions, Lammas Park and Turbine Studios. Other executive producers are the co-director James Rogan, Nancy Bornat, Soleta Rogan, Tracey Scoffield, Anna Smith Tenser and David Tanner.

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