A major theme of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series is West Indian joy. West Indian immigrants’ struggles against state resistance to everyday black life. In a rather profound contrast to McQueen’s other work—in which long takes of suffering bodies draw the viewer into the inescapability of the pain experienced by his subjects—joy disrupted provides the counterpoint to bodies in pain. Striking this balance between suffering and joyous bodies is one of the reasons that McQueen’s series may be his best effort yet to move between art cinema and popular genres. The various films in Small Axe fit in disparate genres, but all but one clearly fit into the category of racial injustice films. But McQueen’s play with genre is what allows him to creative straddle the line between hope and Afropessimism.

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