Mangrove (film)

Last updated

Mangrove
Poster for 2020 film Mangrove.jpg
Poster for Amazon Prime Video release
Directed by Steve McQueen
Screenplay by
  • Steve McQueen
  • Alastair Siddons
Produced by
  • Anita Overland
  • Michael Elliott
Starring
Cinematography Shabier Kirchner
Edited by
Music by Mica Levi
Production
companies
Distributed by
Release dates
  • 24 September 2020 (2020-09-24)(NYFF)
  • 15 November 2020 (2020-11-15)(United Kingdom)
  • 20 November 2020 (2020-11-20)(United States)
Running time
128 minutes
Countries
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
LanguageEnglish

Mangrove is a 2020 historical drama film directed by British director Steve McQueen and co-written by McQueen and Alastair Siddons, about the Mangrove restaurant in west London and the 1971 trial of the Mangrove Nine. [1] It stars Letitia Wright, Shaun Parkes, Malachi Kirby, Rochenda Sandall, Alex Jennings and Jack Lowden.

Contents

The film was released as part of the anthology series Small Axe on BBC One on 15 November 2020 and Amazon Prime Video on 20 November 2020. It premiered as the opening film at the 58th New York Film Festival on 24 September 2020.

Plot

Frank Crichlow is a Trinidadian immigrant opening a new restaurant, the Mangrove, in Notting Hill in the late 1960s. Notting Hill was then a Caribbean immigrant neighborhood. On opening night Constable Frank Pulley looks on and comments to a fellow constable that Black people must be kept in their place.

After the restaurant closes for the night Pulley aggressively confronts Crichlow and accuses Crichlow of running an establishment frequented by drug dealers, gamblers, and prostitutes. Thereafter, Pulley conducts a series of violent raids on the Mangrove, driving Crichlow to financial distress.

The neighborhood rallies in support of the Mangrove and a march is organized to protest police conduct. The police surround the protestors and provoke violence. A number of protesters are immediately brought up on minor charges including Frank Crichlow, British-born activist Barbara Beese, Trinidadian Black Panther leader Altheia Jones-LeCointe, Trinidadian activist Darcus Howe, Rhodan Gordon, Anthony Carlisle Innis, Rothwell Kentish, Rupert Boyce, and Godfrey Millett. A year later those protesters – the Mangrove Nine – are charged with the serious crimes of riot and affray.

At their 1970 trial the Mangrove Nine make race an issue, asking for an all Black jury. The presiding judge, Judge Edward Clarke, declines the request and refuses to give justification. The defendants use their right to challenge white jury members several times, and the prosecutors challenge black jury members. As witnesses give their testimony, Judge Clarke plainly gives preferential treatment to the prosecution. Jones-LeCointe and Howe, representing themselves, point out fabrications in Pulley's testimony and flaws in the medical examiner's testimony. Pulley attempts to feed answers to policeman Royce while he is on the stand, resulting in Pulley's expulsion from the courtroom until his fellow policemen have given their testimony. Barbara Beese then interrupts a witness policeman's gleaming introduction by chanting "the officer has nothing to do with the case" and is soon joined by the other defendants and observers. Judge Clarke reprimands the defendants and observers for disrupting the proceedings and launches an adjournment so emotions can settle. Crichlow and Howe are roughly dragged out of the court box by court officers and thrown into solitary basement cells for disruption. Upon pushback from defending counsels Ian Macdonald and Mr. Croft, Judge Clarke replaces all court officers.

Crichlow is advised by his counsel, Mr. Croft, to plead guilty and abandon his fellow defendants to their own sentences. Crichlow pleads innocent after Jones-LeCointe objects and reveals she is pregnant. The jury acquits Crichlow, Howe, and three other defendants. The judge, commenting that there was evidence of racism on both sides, gives lenient sentences to the four who were convicted.

Cast

Casting

Shaun Parkes was cast as Frank Crichlow, owner of the Mangrove restaurant, and Malachi Kirby was cast as Darcus Howe, an activist and member of the Mangrove Nine, after auditions. [2] Wright was cast as Altheia Jones-LeCointe, a leader of the British Black Panthers and one of the Mangrove Nine, after a meeting with McQueen and casting director Gary Davy. [3] [4] Wright had been unaware of the Mangrove Nine before being approached for the film, saying in an interview with the New York Times that "it’s not in the textbooks at school. The stronghold of Black History Month [October] in the U.K. is American history ... You have mostly — and I honor and respect them always — Martin Luther King and Malcolm X on the posters, but you don’t have the Altheias." [3]

Production

Steve McQueen began developing the Small Axe anthology series in the early 2010s, and while it was initially conceived as a serialized story, he decided to pursue an anthology of distinct films. [3] Mangrove is the longest film in the series and was released as the first of the anthology. Cast member Letitia Wright recalled that McQueen said he chose to tell this story because "The window for our elders’ stories to be told is closing. We can't allow them to pass away and become our ancestors without them seeing themselves, their culture and everything they've contributed to the country represented onscreen." [4]

Release

The film was selected for the 2020 Cannes Film Festival alongside Lovers Rock , but the Festival was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. [5] The film later premiered at the 2020 New York Film Festival, which was held virtually, alongside Lovers Rock and Red, White and Blue . [6] [7] It was the opening film at the 64th BFI London Film Festival on 7 October 2020. [8] It premiered on BBC One and became available for streaming on BBC iPlayer in the United Kingdom on 15 November 2020, [9] and became available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video in the United States on 20 November. [10]

Critical reception

Review aggregator Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 90 out of 100, based on 24 critics, indicating "universal acclaim." [11] On Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 98% based on 104 reviews, with an average rating of 9.03/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "Anchored by strong performances and an even stronger sense of conviction, Mangrove is a powerful indictment of institutional racism." [12]

K. Austin Collins of Rolling Stone commended the film's depiction of community life at the Mangrove restaurant, writing that "the power of Mangrove is in precisely the details that give us this impression, often without us even noticing. There’s something stealthy in its awareness, in the ways it accrues crumbs of insight and observation and dispenses them throughout the narrative without us even noticing. You emerge from the movie with an enriched, nearly felt sense of the Mangrove as a place, not just as a symbol." [13]

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian positively reviewed the courtroom drama elements of the film, writing that "Mangrove is clear-sighted and genuinely passionate with performances which are straight from the heart. You are plunged right back into a situation where really dangerous issues are really at stake, and where at any time Crichlow might be tempted to sell out his co-defendants by taking a guilty plea." [14] Bradshaw and several other critics compared the film favorably to another 2020 courtroom drama film, The Trial of the Chicago 7 . [14] [15] [16] [17]

Paul Gilroy, a Black British writer and historian, commended the Small Axe series in an interview with The Guardian, saying, "What’s exciting about Steve’s films, the Mangrove one in particular, is that they are an attempt to offer a historical transfusion that, in the present condition, can give younger viewers and mainstream viewers an alternative sense of what the history of this country might be over the last 50 years." [18]

The film appeared on several critics' top ten lists of best films from 2020. [19]

Related Research Articles

Alex Jennings is an English actor of the stage and screen, who worked extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre. For his work on the London stage, Jennings received three Olivier Awards, winning for Too Clever by Half (1988), Peer Gynt (1996), and My Fair Lady (2003). He is the only performer to have won Olivier awards in the drama, musical and comedy categories.

Kat Candler is an American film writer, producer, and director. She wrote and directed the 2014 film Hellion, and has worked on television shows including 13 Reasons Why and Queen Sugar.

Leighton Rhett Radford "Darcus" Howe was a British broadcaster, writer and racial justice campaigner. Originally from Trinidad, Howe arrived in England as a teenager in 1961, intending to study law and settling in London. There he joined the British Black Panthers, a group named in sympathy with the US Black Panther Party.

The Newport Beach Film Festival (NBFF) is an annual film festival in Newport Beach, California, typically held in late April.

The Mangrove was a Caribbean restaurant in Notting Hill, London, England. It was founded in 1968 and run by civil rights activist Frank Crichlow, eventually closing in 1992. It is known for the trial of a group of British black activists dubbed "the Mangrove Nine", who were tried for inciting a riot at a 1970 protest against the police targeting the restaurant.

Frank Gilbert Crichlow was a British community activist and civil rights campaigner, who became known in 1960s London as a godfather of black radicalism. He was a central figure in the Notting Hill Carnival. His restaurant, The Mangrove in All Saints Road, served for many years as the base from which activists, musicians, and artists organised the event.

The Mangrove Nine were a group of British black activists tried for inciting a riot at a 1970 protest against the police targeting of The Mangrove, a Caribbean restaurant in Notting Hill, West London. Their trial lasted 55 days and involved various challenges by the Nine to the legitimacy of the British judicial process. They were all acquitted of the most serious charges and the trial became the first judicial acknowledgement of behaviour motivated by racial hatred within the Metropolitan Police.

Malachi Kirby is a British actor and writer. He gained prominence through his roles in the 2016 Roots remake and the Black Mirror episode "Men Against Fire". He earned a BAFTA for his performance in Small Axe: Mangrove.

Letitia Wright Guyanese-born British actress

Letitia Michelle Wright is a Guyanese actress, who moved with her family to England when she was seven years old. She began her career with guest roles in the television series Top Boy, Coming Up, Chasing Shadows, Humans, Doctor Who, and Black Mirror. For the latter, she received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination. She then had her breakthrough for her role in the 2015 film Urban Hymn, for which the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) named Wright among the 2015 group of BAFTA Breakthrough Brits.

The British Black Panthers (BBP) or the British Black Panther movement (BPM) was a Black Power organisation in the United Kingdom that fought for the rights of black people and racial minorities in the country. The BBP were inspired by the US Black Panther Party, though they were unaffiliated with them. The British Panthers adopted the principle of political blackness, which included activists of black as well as South Asian origin. The movement started in 1968 and lasted until around 1973.

Altheia Jones-LeCointe is a Trinidadian physician and research scientist also known for her role as a leader of the British Black Panther Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Jones-LeCointe came to public attention in 1970 as one of the nine protestors, known as the Mangrove Nine, arrested and tried on charges that included conspiracy to incite a riot, following a protest against repeated police raids of The Mangrove restaurant in Notting Hill, London. They were all acquitted of the most serious charges and the trial became the first judicial acknowledgement of behaviour motivated by racial hatred, rather than legitimate crime control, within the Metropolitan Police.

Barbara Beese

Barbara Beese is a British activist, writer, and former member of the British Black Panthers. She is most notable as one of the Black activists known as the Mangrove Nine, charged in 1970 with inciting a riot, following a protest against repeated police raids of The Mangrove, a Caribbean restaurant in Notting Hill, west London. They were all acquitted of the most serious charges and the trial became the first judicial acknowledgement of behaviour motivated by racial hatred, rather than legitimate crime control, within the Metropolitan Police.

<i>Small Axe</i> (anthology) 2020 British anthology film series by Steve McQueen

Small Axe is a British anthology film series, created and directed by Steve McQueen. The anthology consists of five films that tell distinct stories about the lives of West Indian immigrants in London from the 1960s to the 1980s. Two episodes of the series were selected into the 2020 Cannes Film Festival. The series premiered on 15 November 2020 on BBC One in the United Kingdom and on 20 November 2020 on Amazon Prime Video in the United States. The title references a proverb – "Small axe fall big tree" or "If you are the big tree, we are the small axe" – that was popularised by Bob Marley in his 1973 song "Small Axe".

<i>Lovers Rock</i> (2020 film) 2020 film of Small Axe anthology film series

Lovers Rock is a 2020 romance film directed by Steve McQueen and co-written by McQueen and Courttia Newland. It stars Micheal Ward and Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn as two lovers who meet at a reggae house party in 1980 in West London. The film was released as part of the anthology series Small Axe on BBC One on 22 November 2020 and Amazon Prime Video on 27 November 2020. It premiered as an opening film at the 58th New York Film Festival on 24 September 2020.

Leila Hassan Howe is a British editor and activist, who was a founding member of the Race Today Collective. She worked for the Institute of Race Relations and became editor of the Race Today journal in 1986. Hassan was also a member of the Black Unity and Freedom Party. She is co-editor of a collection of writings from Race Today published in 2019.

Ian Alexander Macdonald QC was a Scottish barrister who was "a pioneer of committed anti-racist legal practice" in the UK. During the 1970s he appeared in many notable political and human rights cases, including those involving the Mangrove Nine, the Angry Brigade, and the Balcombe Street siege. He took silk in 1988 and was leader of the British bar in immigration law for five decades until his death at the age of 80.

Rhodan Gordon was a Black British community activist, who migrated to London from Grenada in the 1960s. He came to public attention in 1970 as one of the nine protestors, known as the Mangrove Nine, arrested and tried on charges that included conspiracy to incite a riot, following a protest against repeated police raids of The Mangrove restaurant in Notting Hill, London. They were all acquitted of the most serious charges and the trial became the first judicial acknowledgement of behaviour motivated by racial hatred, rather than legitimate crime control, within the Metropolitan Police.

<i>Red, White and Blue</i> (film) 2020 film of Small Axe anthology film series

Red, White and Blue is a 2020 historical drama film directed by Steve McQueen and co-written by McQueen and Courttia Newland. It stars John Boyega as Leroy Logan, an officer in the London Metropolitan Police who founded the Black Police Association and attempted to reform the police force from within. The film was released as part of the anthology series Small Axe on BBC One on 29 November 2020, and released on Amazon Prime Video on 4 December 2020. It premiered as an opening film at the 58th New York Film Festival on 24 September 2020.

Akashinga is an all-female anti-poaching group in Zimbabwe. The group is the subject of a 2020 documentary titled Akashinga: The Brave Ones.

References

  1. Asthana, Anushka; Bakare, Lanre; Johnson, Jeb; Scully, Frank (15 October 2020). "The story of the Mangrove Nine – podcast". The Guardian. ISSN   0261-3077 . Retrieved 28 November 2020.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. Ewing, Jeff. "Interview: Talking About 'Mangrove' With Stars Shaun Parkes And Malachi Kirby". Forbes. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  3. 1 2 3 Clark, Ashley (11 November 2020). "In 'Small Axe,' Steve McQueen Explores Britain's Caribbean Heritage". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  4. 1 2 Clark, Ashley (20 November 2020). "In 'Small Axe,' Letitia Wright Plays a Real-Life Black Panther". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  5. Scott, Sheena. "'Small Axe': 5 Films On Black British Culture Coming To Amazon Prime". Forbes. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  6. Chang, Justin (12 October 2020). "Even from home, this year's New York Film Festival was a virtual celebration of cinema's power". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 29 November 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. Fleming, Mike Jr. (3 August 2020). "New York Film Festival Sets Steve McQueen's 'Lovers Rock' For Opening Night; Drive-Ins, Virtual Showings To Supplement Possible Lincoln Center Screenings". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  8. Ramachandran, Naman (26 August 2020). "Saoirse Ronan, Kate Winslet Drama 'Ammonite' to Close BFI London Film Festival". Variety. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
  9. "Small Axe - Mangrove". BBC.com Media Centre. 10 November 2020. Retrieved 30 November 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. Wilkinson, Alissa (19 November 2020). "A guide to Steve McQueen's Small Axe, the greatest film series you'll see this year". Vox. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  11. "Mangrove". Metacritic . Retrieved 28 November 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. "Mangrove (2020)". Rotten Tomatoes . Retrieved 5 December 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. Collins, K. Austin (20 November 2020). "Steve McQueen Captures a Pivotal Uprising of British West Indians in 'Mangrove'". Rolling Stone . Retrieved 28 November 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. 1 2 Bradshaw, Peter (25 September 2020). "Mangrove review – Steve McQueen takes axe to racial prejudice". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 November 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. Salmon, Caspar (19 November 2020). "Why Mangrove succeeds where The Trial of the Chicago 7 fails". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 November 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  16. Zacharek, Stephanie (20 November 2020). "In Steve McQueen's Small Axe: Mangrove, West Indian Immigrants Fight for Their Place in Great Britain". Time. Retrieved 28 November 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. Roeper, Richard (18 November 2020). "'Small Axe: Mangrove': Compelling film spotlights a riot trial the whole world should have been watching". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 28 November 2020.
  18. O'Hagan, Sean (15 November 2020). "Paul Gilroy: 'I don't think we can afford the luxury of pessimism'". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 November 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  19. Dietz, Jason (9 January 2020). "Best of 2020: Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Retrieved 11 January 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)