One review on 04 May 2021

UK 2020

Running time: 66 mins

Alex Wheatle

Small Axe pt.4

Director : Steve McQueen 

Setting: Brixton, London
Summary: True story of Alex Wheatle, young West Indian DJ caught up in the Brixton Riots and imprisoned leading to a change of life


  • Sheyi Cole  Alex Wheatle

Aspect Ratio: Widescreen (generic)

Colour: Colour

Sound: Mono

Tech Notes: Mono

First Seen: Tue 4th May 2021
Catalogued: 8th May 2021


Largely told in flashback as Alex enters the prison system as a seemly slightly catatonic young man where he encounters a massive Rasta. We learn he was largely brought up in an abusive care home in Surrey, eventually was housed in a social hostel in Brixton where he finally finds friends and life and works at becoming a DJ, writing and performing. 

In prison he is introduced to the world of books, starting with CLR James, and in the end titles we learn that he goes on to become an award winning writer of young persons fiction.  


by rogerco on Tue 4th May 2021 DVD proj @ home

It Rings True

Full review

Although it is quite short (or possibly because of that as the others all have scenes that go on far too long), this is the most satisfying of the Small Axe set. 

Again dealing with a true story, it unfolds Alex's background in a way that enables us to both understand where and why he is what he is in 1981, and see the seeds of what he is to become after the film ends.

The milieu is convincing, the arrival of young Alex ("I'm from Surrey" when asked where in Africa he is from by his new radical mates) in wide-eyed amazement in Brixton is a treat.

The 1981 riots are not treated in any detail, more as background to Alex's story - that would have been a different film hose core theme was already covered in Mangrove.

xbFilms by CrOsborne