“If you are the big tree, we are the little ax “ sang Bob Marley in 1973, and the title of the new one comes from the verses of the icon of Jamaican music anthological miniseries created by Steve McQueen (Widows, Hunger, 12 years a slave). The big tree is still that of racism, this time told outside the United States of America, in England, while the little ax is made up of five different stories that tackle the problem clearly, giving a clear and precise cross-section of the perpetration of injustices and abuses against minorities.
Alla Rome Film Fest 2020 Three episodes of the series were featured, of which perhaps the most important being the last one to be released on BBC One in the UK and Amazon Prime Video in the US and us. We are talking about Red White and Blue starring John Boyega, based on the true story of Leroy Logan, a neuroscientific researcher who in the 1980s chose to abandon his medical career to join the Metroplitan Police Service after an attack by two policemen against his father.
A teenage dream, perhaps a vocation, to try to change things from within, cleaning up a corrupt and flawed system even going against the will of the parent, despised even by his own people, seen as a traitor.
To try or give up?
The cinematographic, social and civil commitment of Steve McQueen’s filmography has been known since its debut, and not necessarily only and exclusively in racial terms. Hunger for example, dealt with the issue of abuse in prison, Shame on movie, Widows gave space to female empowerment in terms of gender and only 12 years Slave, on closer inspection, he went deep into slavery and racism. Given the current times, with the return to the mobilization of the #BlackLivesMatter and all the recent and terrible prevarications and violence of some members of the police to the detriment of African American citizens, Small Ax, however, is the best possible container to enter this world of outrages and injustices never healed. and that indeed they evolve, changing skin and on some occasions even getting worse. It is then peculiar to observe how the situation has not changed much from the 1980s to today within the police line, where discrimination, fanaticism and brutality existed and still exist.
McQueen approaches the matter with determination telling a story devoid of virtuosity but rich in content, empathy, meaning, directly showing the rotten heart of a stagnant system that can only be attempted to change, choosing on the contrary to surrender to the evidence of the facts.
An aut or that Leroy Logan’s story brings to the screen with conviction, dwelling on the sacrifices and sacrifices of a man who has chosen to fight for the values he believes in instead of abandoning himself to disillusionment, non-action. To interpret the protagonist we find an ever so exceptional John Boyega, which in the hands of the British director becomes a vehicle of great emotion and depth, of great expressive caliber, different from how we have come to know him so far if we exclude his already extraordinary role in Detroit di Kathryn Bigelow.
He has an impressive physicality, which pierces the screen, while his dramatic abilities reach the viewer with an interpretative metric that never forces performance and on the contrary abandons itself to it, entering the soul of the character, dissecting every emotion with a truly impeccable control and dedication.
The credit is certainly also due to the director, who knows how to direct his actors and above all knows the form in which to insert his protagonists. Red, White and Blu is in fact an intimate episode almost entirely shot with the steadycam, with very few long shots and therefore interested in delving into the details of the feelings and life of the characters and the story itself.
The images to be framed are wasted and what is most striking is the sensitivity of the capture, which is never an end in itself but capable of enhancing the emotion of the scene, almost to immortalize not beauty but life itself, a breath, a look, a moment.
And then there is the whole context of growth and comparison between Leroy and his father, played instead by Steve Toussaint. A healthy relationship of confrontation and dialogue that also represents the way of thinking of different generations, of a daydreamer and a deeply angry loser.
In the end, the evidence of the facts remains the same, whether you fight or not, believe or not in change, in direct action, and this unites and strengthens two opposing yet similar thoughts: that knowing the world allows you to make decisions more just, even if opposed, but that the world should perhaps be burned and sown again to ensure that something good is finally born to cultivate.