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Amazon Boards Steve McQueen’s West Indian BBC Series — One Problem: He Hates TV

The drama will tell stories of the West Indian experience in the UK over a period of almost 50 years, from 1968 to 2014.

Steve McQueen'Widows' film premiere, Chicago, USA - 13 Oct 2018

Steve McQueen

Cindy Barrymore/REX/Shutterstock

Amazon Studios has come onboard the upcoming BBC drama from “Widows” director Steve McQueen, according to Georgia Brown, Director of European Originals at the streaming platform, speaking at the House of Lords’ Communications Committee discussion on the future of public service broadcasting in the UK.

Although what specific territories the deal for the six-part series covers isn’t clear.

The drama, which will tell stories of the West Indian experience in the UK, will follow a group of friends and their families over a period of almost 50 years, from 1968 to 2014.

It will begin at the moment of Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech in 1968, when a small restaurant called The Mangrove opens in Ladbroke Grove, a place of camaraderie and friendship that becomes a social heart for the community — and, over time, a flashpoint for resistance.

Enoch Powell was an English right-winger who gave a hard-hitting speech attacking the government’s immigration policy that year. Addressing a Conservative association meeting in Birmingham, Powell said Britain had to be crazy to allow 50,000 immigrants each year into the country. As a result, there were calls for an immediate reduction in immigration and the implementation of a Conservative policy of “encouragement” of those already in the UK, to return home.

“In this country in 15 or 20 years’ time, the black man will have the whip hand over the white man,” Powell said; “Like the Roman, I seem to see the river Tiber foaming with much blood.”

His fears very much echo the xenophobia that much of the West is witnessing today, making the series quite timely.

“I don’t think there has been a serious drama series in Britain with black people from all walks of life as the main protagonists,” McQueen told The Daily Mail in 2014, when the project was first announced, and he wants to rectify that.

The project is currently untitled.

That McQueen is pursuing a TV series is certainly noteworthy, given his expressed disdain for the platform. In October of 2018, the filmmaker told IndieWire, “I’m not so keen on TV.”

Expounding on that thought, he said: “TV had its moment. It’s fodder now, isn’t it? […] There was a moment in the ’90s or early 2000s when it was amazing. And now it’s just, ‘Get stuff done. We need stuff.’”

Calling for some amount of curation of TV content, he said: “I don’t know what’s happening now, but obviously the quality has gone down a little bit. There’s more of it, but less quality.”

The upcoming BBC/Amazon series won’t be McQueen’s first flirtation with television programming. Previously, he developed a six-part series for HBO, titled “Codes of Conduct,” which was to follow a young black man from Queens, to be played by Devon Terrell, who enters New York’s high society. The network would eventually shelve the project.

Additionally, his most recent film, “Widows,” was a remake of the 1980’s British TV series of the same name.

There’s currently no ETA on his forthcoming BBC West Indian drama.

Up next, the filmmaker will team with his wife, Bianca Stigter, for a documentary based on her book on Amsterdam’s WWII history, titled “The Occupied City.”

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