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Steve McQueen’s ‘Lovers Rock’ to Open New York Film Festival

Oscar-winning director will premiere two other films at fest, all of which are from his new Small Axe anthology

Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen will premiere three films from his 'Small Axe' anthology at the New York Film Festival, opening the fest with 'Lovers Rock.'

Eduardo Parra/Getty Images

Steve McQueen’s new film, Lovers Rock, will have its world premiere when it opens the 58th New York Film Festival, which is still set to take place this fall with various COVID-19 safety precautions in place.

Lovers Rock is one of five films in the Oscar-winning director’s new Small Axe anthology, which will arrive in full on Amazon Prime Video in the U.S. and BBC One in the U.K. later this year. The films are set between the late-Sixties and mid-Eighties, and each one, per a press release, tells “a different story involving London’s West Indian community, whose lives have been shaped by their own force of will despite rampant racism and discrimination.”

The other four Small Axe films are Mangrove, Alex Wheatle, Education and Red, White and Blue. Both Mangrove and Red, White and Blue will also premiere at NYFF as part of its Main Slate (the rest of the festival’s lineup will be announced in the coming weeks).

“It’s an incredible honor and also very humbling to show three of my films at the New York Film Festival,” McQueen said in a statement. “It’s especially meaningful for me at this particular time to share these stories as a black man of West Indian heritage. I’m grateful to the NYFF for their generosity and wish everyone a safe and healthy festival.”

Lovers Rock tells the story of “young love and music at a blues party” in the early Eighties, and stars Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn in her screen debut opposite Michael Ward, who won BAFTA’s Rising Star Award earlier this year. McQueen co-wrote the film with Courttia Newland.

Mangrove, meanwhile, tells the true story of the Mangrove Nine, a group of black activists who were charged with inciting a riot at a 1970 protest, but ended up acquitted on all charges during a highly publicized trial that marked the first judicial acknowledgment of racially motivated behavior within the London police. The movie will star Letitia Wright, Shaun Parkes and Malachi Kirby, while McQueen co-wrote it with Alastair Siddons.

Lastly, Red, White and Blue is based on another true story, this one of Leroy Logan, who joined the London police out of a desire to change their racist attitudes after watching two cops assault his father. John Boyega and Steve Toussaint will star with McQueen and Newland writing the script.   

The New York Film Festival is set to take place on September 25th through October 11th. Due to ongoing concerns over the spread of COVID-19, there will be a focus on outdoor and virtual screenings, with some indoor screenings possible under the guidance of health officials. The NYFF will set up two major drive-in theaters within New York City, one in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, and the other at the Brooklyn Army Terminal.

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