Sunday, 13 December 2020

Steve McQueen – Small Axe anthology film series #4 “Alex Wheatle”…

 The penultimate film in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series is about how the Jamaican, Alex Wheatle (born 1963), changed his life after being encouraged in prison to understand his history.

 

Sheyi Cole as Alex Wheatle

Wheatle had been writing lyrics about everyday life in Brixton, south London and was working as a DJ … but when the Brixton riot of 1981 was going on he saw the police beating up a friend … he retaliates ending up in prison.


 

Bob Marley statue in 
Kingston, Jamaica by
Alvin Marriott

His cellmate an educated Rastafarian, encourages him to see the future through reading more, expanding and caring about his education, as well as his own future and others’ lives: over which he will have influence (whether he goes back to his old ways, or changes while he has the chance)





Chester Himes in 1946

 … he is able to read authors such as Chester Himes, Richard Wright, CLR James (1901 - 1989) {living for a while in Brixton} and John Steinbeck … but it is Himes (1909 – 1984) who truly influences Wheatle …

 




… there are similarities … British prison life v American penitentiary … Wheatle for a short time, but long enough to learn so much … and Himes for much longer, though his term was paroled …

 

C L R James


… they were both able to write and took time in prison to improve their talent, submit stories to magazines, while earning respect for this ability.

 


Brixton Riots 1981 - showing police
cordon with shields



Wheatle is in London, Himes was in London, Ohio … but Himes’ stories were violent … about police treatment, race relations, Jim Crow laws …

 



Himes’ Harlem Detective novels (Harlem Renaissance time frame) further inspired Wheatle in his approach to crime novels, and encouraged him to stretch his literary abilities …


Three Women in Harlem c 1925

 

Wheatle’s life story features as this fourth film in the Small Axe series … the settings are real-life, but sparse … it is eye-opening … as my curiosity has expanded … I’ve been absorbed exploring …

 


The last film tonight will be ‘Education’ … which I’m sure will open my eyes even further …

 


Steve McQueen’s filmography is exceptional … the scenes are well staged and touching … which will remind us about the challenge some peoples encounter in their lives … and, I hope, wonder if we can help change this narrative by educating ourselves.

 


Wheatle's 'The
Guardian's' Children's
Ficton Prize

Alex Wheatle is now an author, crime novelist, children’s author, playwright, with a recognised voice who is empowering those who will listen to think about life and how it works …

 



This film in the Small Axe series … dramatically shows us how Wheatle fell in love with reading the works by black writers and other authors new to him … and then learnt to adapt his writing style …

 




I’m going to watch this evening’s film … and as I’ve come to appreciate a great deal more from McQueen’s approach to story-telling, as well as things I’ve found out about crime-writing … I’ll be back with more posts …

 

Alex Wheatle's first thriller


A couple of links to explore or refer back to … there are others … but as most of our minds are rather fractured at the moment, despite the season, I’ll leave you with these …

 AlexWheatle, and

 Alex Wheatlethe film

 Article byVincent Dowd, Arts correspondent, BBC News on an interview with Alex Wheatle on why the 'amazing Chester Himes' should be better known ... 


Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


33 comments:

Inger said...

This means a lot to me, sometime privately I will tell you why. I'm not familiar with Alex Wheatle, but will soon be. I've downloaded a sample of his book, Island Songs, from Amazon to my Kindle.

Jz said...

I'll be looking up Chester Himes, as well. I'm not usually one for noir-tone mysteries but the Harlem Renaissance is an interesting time.

Elephant's Child said...

Thank you. I can see I have a lot of exploring to do later.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
thanks Hilary - sadly am so far behind in any viewing this past wee while, but I shall be using the good ol' iPlayer to catch up - something to tide me over Christmas and new year. YAM xx

Joanne said...

I admit I've gotten a bit bogged down watching these. I think I've been too tired after work at night. I need to watch when I'm fresher and can concentrate. This past week, I've wanted fluff and nonsense. But these are streaming and should stay a bit, so I'll find time. Meanwhile, you are providing the Cliff notes version and I thank you.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Inger – oh that’s great … a) that you’ll share a little more of your London life with me privately as you say and b) delighted you’ve downloaded a sample of one of his books – I’m going to be leaving that til next year – I’ve so much to read for the moment …

@ Jz – that’s wonderful to know you’ll be looking up Chester Himes … I will too next year … but also the Harlem Renaissance is something I’d never heard of … so will investigate that more …

@ EC – I know you’re struggling right now … no rush – when you’re ready … and hope you feel better and easier soon …

@ Yam – I can quite understand why you’re so far behind – I feel for you … and probably these would be easier to see during the day – time to think … However wishing you well this week …

@ Joanne – I’m not surprised … life is pretty horrid for so many right now, and that means those of us that are getting by - just seeing the world struggling around us.

But thanks for the comment re the cliff notes – there’ll be more … as there’s other things linked in that I’d like to write up.

All visitors – take care, look after yourselves and all the best – thanks for coming by - Hilary

Botanist said...

The irony is that modern communications ought to be bringing people closer together, but in fact they are fragmenting our society even more making events like the Brixton riots even more likely.

David M. Gascoigne, said...

The Brixton Riots seems to be somewhere in my memory bank, but I am not sure how full the folders are! I am also not sure how much coverage those events might have received over here, so I will do some research to bring myself up to speed. Thanks for another challenging post, Hilary. You never fail to make us think.

Sandra Cox said...

I love to hear stories about people turning their lives around.
Thanks for sharing.
Take special care.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

While these stories are true, I can't help but feel that they give a distorted view of the world to black youngsters in that they seem to present only two alternatives: huge success or a life of crime. I have several black friends who are in neither category - they went to school then got unremarkable but fulfilling jobs and had children whom they loved and cared for.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Ian – I know … modern communications aren’t helping the world … we, as humans, need to learn how to adjust and not be so influenced by others …

@ David – the Brixton Riots must have been horrendous … I wasn’t here – but know about them. The film was more about how we could all educate ourselves and learn more to enlighten our minds. I am looking forward to reading a Wheatle story, as well as one by Chester Himes … and find out more for myself.

@ Sandra – thank you … yes, those who turn their lives around will then help others … and inspire them too …

@ John – you have some personal experience of this side of life … so I can understand your comment. And I totally agree re there are plenty of others who have happy, satisfying jobs … setting examples in their local communities while obviously not everyone has major success … but as you say there are many who have loving and caring families …

Thanks so much for your comments and thoughts … it’s an interesting series to watch and to learn from … especially from where I sit – take care all of you and stay safe - Hilary

Lisa said...

I've started watching the series. With your insight, perhaps I'll get more out of it now! Thanks Hilary.

retirementreflections said...

I continue to learn so much from your posts, Hilary.
Your passion comes through brilliantly in your writing.

Jacqui Murray said...

How to make lemonade out of lemons. Good on him and we all benefit. Thanks for sharing this, Hilary.

Keith's Ramblings said...

I chose not to watch this series as it fell outside of my normal viewing preferences, but now you've got me interested. I might just dip in and see if it hooks me as it has so many others!

Sandra Cox said...

I love that he turned himself around in prison. That should happen all the time, but you just don't hear about it that often.
Take special care.

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

I found this really interesting

D.G. Kaye said...

Thank you for the wonderful short insight into this inspirational story. I will look for it for sure as I love documentary films. Thanks Hilary and Happy Holidays to you. <3

Liz A. said...

I'd never heard of him before. Interesting stuff.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Lisa – that’s great you’re watching the films … yes I’ve been grateful to find out more before or after I’ve watched the film … I’m understanding more …

@ Donna - many thanks … I’m learning so much as I explore beyond my usual boundaries …

@ Jacqui – yes … you’re so right making lemonade out of lemons … we’re all learning and those ‘who know’ are increasing and expanding our knowledge too …

@ Keith – yes … I felt the same … but honestly having read up more about Steve McQueen I realised how much he had to teach me – so I made a point of watching and then evaluating … I’m glad you’ll have a look …

@ Sandra – yes both Alex Wheatle and Chester Himes made their prison experience count, to change their lives around …

@ Jo-Anne – thank you …

@ Debby – these are very British films … but will open up minds for us all … and I’m so glad you’ll have a look at one or two of them …

@ Liz – both Alex Wheatle (English) and Chester Himes (American) obviously have done really well with their penmanship … and changed their approach to life …

Thanks for visiting and being here … great to see so many of you are interested to explore further … all the best and stay safe - Hilary

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

So interesting to learn about Wheatle! Thanks for focusing on him and for giving us links to learn more.

Janie Junebug said...

I discovered last night that the Steve McQueen films are available on my Amazon streaming. I look forward to seeing them.

Love,
Janie

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I can see why Mr. McQueen's filmography is so exceptional. Thank you for introducing me to this extraordinary man.

Rhodesia said...

Another very interesting post. Is the series on the TV? I never watch much so I have no idea what films there might be. We cannot stream here either. We have not been to the cinema this year, but not something that would probably come here anyway.

Keep safe and well, Diane

A Cuban In London said...

An excellent article to add to your excellent post. :-)

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/dec/05/alex-wheatle-i-have-nightmarish-moments-where-my-past-comes-back-and-hits-me

Greetings from London.

Elsie Amata said...

I loved reading that they brushed up on their writing skills while in prison. What a great way to turn something that could've been a negative into a positive.

Elsie

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Elizabeth – yes I’m looking forward to reading his works … I’m so pleased you’ll be investigating more …

@ Janie – yes I’ve been mentioning that the films will be available on Amazon – so that’s great you’ll be watching them.

@ Joylene – yes … McQueen’s being highly praised here in the media and from those who understand his creative abilities …

@ Diane – the series is on iPlayer, and is being released as a DVD series … it may come to arts cinemas in due course … but I gather your reception in rural France isn’t very good – a disadvantage, yet what a beautiful part of the world you’re in …

@ ACIL – thank you … I must properly read the Guardian article … I don’t subscribe or read the paper – but I will definitely look. I know the post was a brief overview …

@ Elsie – yes … it’s interesting how reading more … guided them … but it was their approach to the content and how to construct their own books which helped so much …

Thanks so much to you all – lovely to have your stimulating and interesting comments … all the best - Hilary

DMS said...

Such interesting content! I am learning so much. I appreciate you sharing all of this with us! :)
~Jess

Tyrean Martinson said...

Thanks for sharing these stories. I learned a lot and became even more intrigued. Very cool!
Merry Christmas!

Mike@Bit About Britain said...

Thanks for sharing this, Hilary. I've seen some trailers and just haven't got round to watching yet. It looks fascinating - and there is much to learn. Merry Christmas!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Jess - if you get a chance please take the time out to watch ... they're really excellent.

@ Tyrean - that's great ... I think you'll enjoy the next one too ... it's on education ...

@ Mike - thank you - I hope you'll take the time to watch them ... and yes each of the five tells of a different way of life back in the British 1960s - 1980s era - while as you say there is so much to learn from them.

Thanks to you three - lovely to know you're each interested in seeing the various films ... stay safe - Hilary

mail4rosey said...

Place a child where their talents are recognized and they are not ostracized for not being able to do things that come easily to many, and they are bound to thrive. It meets the most basic need of wanting to be accepted for who we are... :) God bless those who do accept others naturally and without hesitation.

Here to wish you a Merry Christmas and happy holiday season!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Rosey - thanks so much - yes our education's systems of schooling can often be found wanting, and in some instances really badly. Thankfully some can be rescued ... and help them read, write or create without any inhibitions ... and without criticising them - only being there to help and let them find their talents. Yes thank goodness for all those who will disadvantaged children ...
Thank you re Christmas - and now have an easier, happier 2021 ... all the best - Hilary