Curtain call

Steve McQueen’s Mangrove will open this year’s London Film Festival
Film+TV | 24 August 2020

For the second time in his career, British director Steve McQueen will raise the curtain on the BFI London Film Festival, which this year will be going digital for the first time in its history.

Following from Widows, which opened the festival in 2018, McQueen’s new film Mangrove will be the first of 55 premiers to be given their virtual premier this year. The film is one of five McQueen has written together with Alistair Siddons (Trespass Against Us) as part of a new anthology called Small Axe, made for the BBC and co-produced by Amazon.

Starring Letitia Wright, Shaun Parkes and Malachi Kirby, Mangrove follows the story of the Mangrove 9, a group of black British activists tried for inciting a riot in 1970. Their name derived from the Mangrove Restaurant in Notting Hill, a popular hangout among the local Afro-Caribbean  community and a regular meeting spot for black intellectuals and academics.

The premises were routinely raided by police, ostensibly on suspicion of drug possession, yet they signified the extent of institutional racism within the force. At the 55-day trial that followed the march on the police station, the 9 were dismissed after the magistrate founds evidence against 12 police offers suggesting they equated black radical activism with criminal intent.

“I couldn’t be happier that Mangrove will open this year’s BFI London Film Festival,” said McQueen of the news. “Although the themes are universal, Mangrove is a London story. It may have happened fifty years ago, but it’s as relevant today as it was then.”

BFI London Film Festival is on from 7 October to 18 October.

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