Steve McQueen on George Floyd, Racism and 'Small Axe', at Esquire Townhouse 2020

Esquire Editors
·2-min read

From Esquire

Is Sir Steve McQueen Britain's greatest living film director? His Bafta, Oscar and Turner Prize make a very compelling case. Over a 30-year career, he's conquered the worlds of art and commerce, making films that are as challenging as they are popular, and working in every imaginable medium.

Born in London in 1969, McQueen broke through in the British arts world in the early Nineties. His short art films Bear (1993) and Deadpan (1997), which won him the Turner Prize in 1999, were followed by mainstream cinema success with the films Hunger (2008), Shame (2011), the Oscar Best Picture-winning 12 Years A Slave (2013), and Widows (2018).

This winter, he releases Small Axe, an anthology series of five feature-length films for the BBC which focus on moments of revolt by Black Britons against discriminatory systems. They cover the late Sixties through to the early Eighties, which to McQueen were "a golden age of resistance".

"These stories are as relevant now as they were then," McQueen told Esquire during his recent cover interview. "It’s only now that people are waking up to the fact that there’s been injustices against Black people for decades in this country, and centuries elsewhere. It took a pandemic. It took a brutal killing. It took millions marching. For people to think, ‘Possibly I should think in a different way.’ And only possibly, it’s not actually done yet."

McQueen joins us at this year's Esquire Townhouse @ Your House in partnership with Breitling, in discussion with Esquire Editor-in-Chief Alex Bilmes, to talk about the project, as well as his own experiences of Blackness and his optimism – and its limitations – in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement. He discusses his career as an artist and filmmaker, from his childhood in West London to his knighthood at the start of this year. He also digs into the inspiration and impetus behind Small Axe, as well as paying tribute to the people whose stories the series tells.

For information on all the other talks at this year's Esquire Townhouse, as well as highlights and behind-the-scenes content, make sure to sign up to our newsletter.

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