What does the story of a black British convict have to do with a white male who grew up in Ponders Corner? Nothing . . . and everything.
I’ve never been to Great Britain, and never been convicted of anything. but I believe that we are all related and should be treated equally. The story of Alex Wheatle is part four of the Prime series Small Axe. This is my third review of the series. I reviewed Part One – Mangrove, and Part Three – Red, White, and Blue, and although I watched Part Two – Lovers Rock, I did not review it. My mind often walks back on its own to that episode. The Suburban Times reader GG, suggested it was a “fly on the wall” opportunity to see the lives of young Black men and the younger Black women at an all night party. I should have said women, but girls seems closer age-wise. I have the same feeling about Alex Wheatle, the Black British convict who is the central figure in the film “Alex Wheatle.” – imdb.com/title/tt10551104/
A lack of “all related and treated equally” is the same problem we see with BLM (Black Lives Matter) or in this case, BBLM (British Black Lives Matter). Alex Wheatle is a young black man whose mother abandoned him to a childhood of torture and ridicule in an orphanage.
We see the incarcerated Alex being introduced to prison life after the two day Brixton Riots of 1981. Stripped down naked, he must weigh a total of 120 pounds, but size doesn’t stop him . . . even in an outmatched confrontation.
Alex is helped by an older, more confident mate (the British word for a good friend), who takes him under his wing and even teaches Alex how to walk (a very funny moment).
“The 1981 Brixton riot, or Brixton uprising, was a confrontation between the Metropolitan Police and protesters in Brixton, South London, England, between 10 and 12 April 1981. The main riot on 11 April, dubbed “Bloody Saturday” by Time magazine, resulted in 279 injuries to police and 45 injuries to members of the public; over a hundred vehicles were burned, including 56 police vehicles; almost 150 buildings were damaged, with thirty burned. There were 82 arrests. Reports suggested that up to 5,000 people were involved.” – Wikipedia
Official Trailer of Alex Wheatle – imdb.com/video/vi1043317017
We mostly see the life of Alex Wheatle play before us . . . but not the overcoming and acceptance of a better road leading to a better world for Alex. His cellmate, an older, philosophical, Rastafarian Black man tells him that he will never understand his place in the world until he educates himself. Reading is the answer . . . and he gives Alex his beloved, well-worn, mostly paperback library. During his incarceration, Alex read authors like Chester Himes, Richard Wright, C. L. R. James, and John Steinbeck. Alex Wheatle is a well known author of children’s books.
In this video clip you get to see the real Alex Wheatle – imdb.com/video/vi120570137
“On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 96% based on 27 critic reviews, with an average rating of 7.44/10.” – Rotten Tomatoes
Again, I had the feeling of being the fly on the wall. Steve McQueen, producer/director/writer, is delivering spell-binding productions followed by episodes for us to consider, weigh and compare. Small Axe is a heavy-duty series delivering thoughtful stories that deserve to be seen and discussed. Even in Ponders Corner.
Sheyi Cole plays Alex Wheatle. Cole was plucked from a drama class for the role. What a great career launching moment for this young actor. Watch an interview with Sheyi Cole – lrmonline.com/news/sheyi-cole-interview/
Many British viewers would have already been familiar with the name and the books of Alex Wheatle, but with American viewers probably not so much. I knew nothing about the real Alex Wheatle. Knowing the background and the success of Wheatle makes watching the film less bleak. And that is a good thing. We can still see and feel the injustice of his life, but knowing what he overcame gives us hope for the future . . . both ours and the world.