Amazon Prime Video’s “Small Axe” is among the final batch of this year’s Peabody Award winners, which have been announced throughout the week. Variety also has a first look at actor Cynthia Erivo presenting the honor to “Small Axe,” and filmmaker Steve McQueen’s acceptance speech; scroll down to watch.
A collection of five films from McQueen about Black West Indian immigrants in 1970s and early 1980s London, “Small Axe” touches on subjects including police brutality, anti-Black racism, immigrant live and the music, food and culture of the time.
More from Variety
“Watching ‘Small Axe’ was an amazing experience, specifically the ‘Lovers Rock’ episode, which showed the influence of Black music within the U.K.,” Erivo said in presenting the award. “It reminded me of the way my mom loves music, of the way I would listen to music when I was younger. It reminded me of family friends, it reminded me of the community that I had around me when I was growing up. I think that this wonderful cast, with Steve’s wonderful steerage of this ship, did something very special.”
Erivo, who appeared in McQueen’s heist film “Widows,” added, “I have had the pleasure of working with Steve myself and honestly it’s one of the best experiences that I have had. There’s no other person who has such joy for the art of filmmaking than he. I think this is more than well deserved.”
In accepting the Peabody, McQueen said, “It’s such a special honor to receive a Peabody Award. As an artist, my job is to make connections. To make people feel alive. To help people understand who we are as human beings. ‘Small Axe’ was a want, a must and a need, a passion that I have to share with people. Stories which were deemed as not important that for me had to come out into the light. So I’m very honored to receive this Peabody Award. And also as someone who is involved in the arts and activism, I’m very honored.”
A total of 60 nominees were announced as nominees in May, representing “the most compelling and empowering stories released in broadcasting and streaming media during 2020.” The Peabody Awards Board of Jurors selected this year’s nominees for entertainment, documentaries, news, podcast/radio, children’s & youth, public service and arts. Peabody pointed out that among the 32 awards, 21 of the winning works are by or about BIPOC people and issues.
Here is how Peabody described “Small Axe,” in recognizing the anthology series:
“‘Small Axe’ gives us one of the first sustained and intimate examinations of the post-World War II Windrush generations of immigrants to England from the Caribbean. These beautiful but fierce stories of love, family, community, resistance in the new country showcase a pivotal generation of Black West Indian immigrants. The anthology’s five films honor the sacrifices made, hardships endured, culture asserted, and battles fought—the small and large acts of courage and confidence—all for immigrant dreams of possibility. In the face of an unyielding empire, anti-Black racism, and a structured class system often stacked against them, the Windrush generation challenged many of the foundational conceptions of what it means to be British.
“The series vividly communicates in powerful and lovingly-layered detail the determination, power, and vision of Black intellectuals, artists, activists, entrepreneurs, youth, and teachers who struggled to make a life in their new home. Portrayed through the poetics and intimacies of everyday life, the richness of culture and music, and the collective power of social movement and political action, Small Axe is a stunning emotional testament, offered as a political prism and intellectual history by the uncompromising commitment of Steve McQueen.
“For the magnitude of its marvelous stories, as well as its brilliant and groundbreaking celebration of the Windrush generation’s pivotal contributions to redefining Britain, ‘Small Axe’ wins a Peabody Award.”
Watch Erivo present the honor and McQueen accept it here:
Here were additional Peabody Awards handed out on Thursday:
“The Cave” (NatGeo)
“Welcome to Chechnya” (HBO)
“ABC News 20/20: Breonna Taylor” (ABC)
“PBS NewsHour: Desperate Journey” (PBS)
“The Promise: Season 2” (Nashville Public Radio)
“Cops and Robbers” (Netflix)
Children’s & Youth
“Stillwater” (Apple TV Plus)
And the other Peabody honorees that were awarded earlier this week:
“The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” (CBS)
“Ted Lasso” (Apple TV Plus)
“The Good Lord Bird” (Showtime)
“I May Destroy You” (HBO)
“La Llorona” (Shudder)
“Asian Americans” (PBS)
“Time” (Amazon Studios)
“76 Days” (MTV Documentary Films)
“Collective” (HBO Europe)
“Immigration Nation” (Netflix)
“Crip Camp” (Netflix)
“Floodlines” (The Atlantic)
“Post Reports: The Life of George Floyd” (The Washington Post)
“Full Disclosure” (KNXV-TV)
“China Undercover” Frontline (PBS / WGBH)
“Whose Vote Counts” (PBS / GBH)
“VICE on Showtime: Losing Ground” (Showtime)
“Muslim in Trump’s America (Exposure)” (ITV)
“PBS NewsHour: Coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic” (PBS)
Children’s & Youth
“The Owl House” (Disney Channel)
“Facing Race” (KING-TV)
Peabody also announced Ava DuVernay’s Array as an Institutional Award winner, Sam Pollard as winner of the Peabody Career Achievement Award and Judy Woodruff, anchor and managing editor of the PBS NewsHour, won the Peabody Award for Journalistic Integrity. The Peabody Awards are based at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.
“Whether documenting the horrors and struggles of COVID-19, amplifying critical discussions around police brutality, or simply entertaining us with heartfelt stories about our shared humanity, the Peabody 30 winners represent the very best in compelling storytelling,” said Jeffrey P. Jones, executive director of Peabody. “Spanning mediums and genres, they told urgent and powerful stories despite the many challenges posed by the pandemic and an often relentless hostility towards the press. It is an honor to celebrate their fantastic work.”
Best of Variety