Small Axe ends with what, based on his 2014 profile in the Guardian, we take to be a tale partially inspired by Steve McQueen’s own childhood. In Education, a young dyslexic boy, Kingsley, is transferred to a school for the “educationally subnormal”, a real practice in the 1970s that disproportionately involved black children. The institution to which he’s sent is barely a school, the children left unsupervised by bored teachers and allowed to run riot – but it’s covertly investigated by a group of activists hoping to fight and end the system.
Mike relates to the film, recognising in Kingsley’s mum the same righteous anger and desire to fight for her son that his own mum showed for him as a youngster, and to its evocation of British school life. (It may be set twenty years prior to his school years, but British kids have had to perform London’s Burning on recorders and tambourines since time immemorial.) The aesthetic evokes the era vividly, the visual quality of the images, the shot selections and editing all perfectly emulating the look of Play for Today, the iconic anthology series. And as with the rest of Small Axe, a concise historical struggle within Britain’s wider racist society is effectively rendered complex…
… up to a point. Though the situation and its effects are complex, the characters are mostly fairly one-note, and the film’s ending is rather pat – even a little phony, though it’s forgivable for this series to want to end on a hopeful note. Still, it’s an intelligent, thoughtful film that fits in perfectly amongst the rest of the series, and as we have throughout, we implore you to watch it all.
Juanjo Cid is an activist and filmmaker from the Dominican Republic. I first met him at the EICTV Film School in Cuba, the year there was a great gay carnival, a mini-pride parade in the courtyard of the school with rainbow flags, and drag, a bonfire and lots of music and dancing. The whole school joined in the celebrations. It was a joyful event which seemed amazing to me in Cuba, even if it did take place in the protected socio-cultural bubble that is the school.
I´ve been wanting to talk to Juanjo since I reconnected with him in the Dominican Republic last year. He´s at the centre of an intersection of art-making, night-clubbing and activism that is so interesting to me because it´s so archetypal of queer cultures world-wide. This is the first of a series of a series of excerpts of a very long conversation which took place in his home and which I will publish as different podcasts.
In this first one I wanted to know what constitutes gay activism in a poor country that, despite a recent burst of prosperity, is still ridden by poverty, inequality, corruption; one in which the Catholic Church still enjoys considerable power, and one in which an increasingly popular and very homophobic evangelical church is gaining in influence. Juanjo gives a thoughtful, articulate, and highly entertaining account of what drove him into queer activism ten years ago and why he continues to be involved today in organisations such as IURA (Individuales Unidos por Respeto y Armonía/ Individuals United for Respect and Harmony)
Juanjo´s account in this particular podcast should be of particular interest to those of you who are currently queer activists elsewhere or are working for NGO´s and International Agencies: ‘International Aid is amazing. Thank You!