Thrilled to watch Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series. The cinematography is amazing — not only are the tones rich, but it’s the way the camera lingers on objects and images; how he utilises the camera moving through crowds or groups so that you feel that you’re physically in the group, in the midst of things and how highlighting objects and images giving emotional and cultural context. It’s giving cinematic context to TV drama by using visuals to tell the story; gives such a different feel to so many dramas.
The stories are painful and feature injustice; yet in most of them there is overcoming and hope. The characters are riveting as this is real ensemble acting from a Mum’s very targeted prayers to how older and younger men relate about buying flowers when you’re trying to prepare for your business opening night. There are so many positives here as well as painful situations shown, and real ‘walk a mile in their shoes’ stories — the ‘what if’s’. What if your son taking the family shopping home was illegally arrested and beaten up? What if you were a new recruit in a racist authoritarian culture? What if the education system is biased against you? What is so called special education isn’t good enough for those with special educational needs or learning difficulties and disabilities? What if the care system has failed you and you don’t know who you are?
The much bigged up Lovers Rock was the only one that disappointed me. Maybe because the story was a bit more all over the place rather than with central characters — more about a scene, than the people who were there. Maybe because I wanted it to be more romantic than it actually was — I found it a difficult watch because there’s a couple of incidents of sexual violence or the potential for it. This is, I guess the reality of life, but I wanted more ladies singing along to the music (especially when they’re being chided by their Mum!) and the sheer floaty, fashionable romance of it all and less grim reality. The birthday girl is having a truly terrible birthday. But the music! There is a bit of romance at the end, and the ending is really funny as reality lands with a bump. I guess I just wanted more celebration than reality and threat.
I did like the details in Lovers Rock; such as the walk on at the back buses; the kissing at the bus stop! the plastic coverings over the sofas and the men shyly dancing on the wall as the women dominate the dance floor to begin with. Kung Fu fighting! We need more dances like this!!
Although these dramas could easily be seen as ‘issue’ dramas, they are far much more than that — the characters, the dialogue, the emotions, the suspense — how is it going to work out for people? Alex Wheatle made me want to laugh and cry, but most of all to rescue and see a child treated as a child; the level of unjust misunderstanding and emotional/cultural neglect is huge. Education again had me laughing and crying — the faithfulness of Kingsley Smith’s sister and friends; the terribleness of the lack of education and wasting of time of a boy who does want to learn and dream, despite the lack of challenge — being played guitar at instead! The casual ordinariness of the racism in Red, White and Blue, and Mangrove — the complete misuse of what’s meant to be protective authority as though it’s a game, the brutality — hideous; the repeated raiding of a private business in a democracy. Hard working parents are celebrated as is family togetherness and yet we are left to think about things: this is less brickbat, more presenting situations for us to ponder, regret and seek to make amends for by acting with greater compassion and understanding, and practically restoring.