Small Axe: Mangrove (2020)

DailyView: Day 283, Movie 399

In 2020, a series of films were released first on the BBC and then a week later on Amazon Prime. This series of films were all under the awning of Small Axe and they were all written and directed by Steve McQueen. It was a series that I wanted to watch at the time, but just did not fit them into my schedule. That oversight then is my benefit now as I can use these films in the DailyView during Black History Month.

The first film is the true story of the Mangrove restaurant in west London and the subsequent trial of the group known as the Mangrove 9, a group accused by the police at the time of organizing and starting a violent riot.

The Mangrove restaurant was targeted by the police at the time under suspicion of criminal behavior going on, despite the fact that there had been no evidence of anything taking place. Trinidadian immigrant Frank Crichlow (Shaun Parkes) opened the Mangrove in Noting Hill during the 1960s and the place immediately became a local spot for black people to meet.

The restaurant is watched by racist Constable Frank Pulley (Sam Spruell) and Pulley leads several assaults and raids on the establishment, tormenting Frank and his employees.

The neighborhood rallied behind the Mangrove and organized a protest against the unfair police actions. After the police instigated violence among the protesters, several arrests are made and the group is placed on trial.

Letitia Wright played Trinidadian Black Panther leader Altheia Jones-LeCointe, and she does a magnificent job. She brings a power to her performance that I did not expect. Other featured actors included Malachi Kirby, Nathaniel Martello-White, Richie Campbell, Alex Jennings, Samuel West, and Darren Braithwaite.

The courtroom scenes in this movie are extremely compelling, especially when Altheia and Darcus, who were defending themselves, cross examined some of the key witnesses of the case. The judge certainly seemed to be favoring the prosecution and created anxiety among the viewers with how unfair he seemed to be.

The film does a great job of showing how much agony the defendants were in from the searching for justice that did not appear to be coming.

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