When the HMT Empire Windrush landed at Tilbury Docks in 1948, it signalled the start of a widespread migration from the Caribbean. These immigrants were invited to the UK to plug holes in the British labour market, predominantly within the health service and public transportation. Most of these newcomers settled in London and were largely responsible for rejuvenating a waning post-war economy. There was resistance and racism from the outset, but by the 1970s the likes of Enoch Powell had stoked up hatred and resentment; eventually leading to unrest. Steve McQueen’s new film, Mangrove, is one example of this persecution.
Frank Critchlow (Shaun Parkes) is determined to make a success of his new restaurant in Notting Hill. After problems with his previous business, he’s determined that the Mangrove will be both a success and above any suspicion from the law. However, the Metropolitan Police have other ideas. The restaurant soon doubles as a community centre for the local residents, but the intimidation reaches breaking point and a demonstration turns violent. Nine activists find themselves in court facing the serious charge of incitement to riot.
Mangrove tells just one of countless stories of racism, intimidation and police brutality inflicted on the Caribbean community living in the UK during the second half of the twentieth century. The story of the ‘Mangrove Nine’ is one of the many stains on British racial history and the case is brilliantly brought to life by McQueen. The cast is superb, especially Parkes, Letitia Wright and Malachi Kirby. The period and tensions of the time are beautifully captured through Shabier Kirchner’s lens. Mangrove is a powerfully emotive film which demonstrates the best of British drama.
Mangrove screened at London Film Festival and is part of the Small Axe drama anthology which comes to the BBC in the autumn.