If his work on Skate Kitchen and Sollers Point didn’t yet clue you into the immense talents of cinematographer Shabier Kirchner, get ready for one of the greatest achievements in the field this year: Steve McQueen’s five-film anthology series Small Axe. From the immersive, ecstatic Lovers Rock to the fiery, urgent Mangrove, Kirchner brings an immaculate, varied eye to these stories of the West Indian community of London. Now, he’s set to embark on his directorial debut.
Screen Daily reports Kirchner will direct Augustown, adapting Kei Miller’s 2016 novel with a script by Courttia Newland (Lovers Rock and Red, White and Blue) and executive produced by Steve McQueen. Backed by Potboiler Productions and Rathaus Films, as well as BBC Film, the story is set in 1980s Jamaica.
According to the official synopsis, the “story begins when a teacher cuts off the dreadlocks of Kaia, a violation of his family’s Rastafari beliefs and an action that will impact the entire community. It causes his blind great-aunt, Ma Taffy, to recall stories from her youth including the legend of a flying preacher man and his ties to the history of Jamaican oppression and resistance. “
“There are so many stories from the Caribbean that need to be illuminated. They are like treasures buried deep below sand. It is wonderful that Shabier is bringing such stories to light,” McQueen said. Kirchner added, “I have always wanted to break down the way we’ve been taught to tell stories. The Caribbean is so full of untold narratives, I would love to share as many as I can with the world, so Augustown is the perfect place to start.”
Speaking to the influences on Small Axe, Kirchner also told Le Cinema Club that he “looked at films by Hou Hsiao-hsien, The Headless Woman by Lucrecia Martel, Wong Kar-wai and Alan Clarke. Babylon by Franco Rosso is amazing and it had just been re-released. Also The Education of Sonny Carson is an incredibly photographed American film from the 70s – the list goes on and on and on!”
Small Axe begins rolling out on Amazon Prime on November 20 with one film a week. Watch a talk with its creators below from the 58th New York Film Festival.