Director Sir Steve McQueen has said “things are changing” for black British filmmakers, after Lovers Rock was named film of the year by the BFI-backed publication Sight & Sound.
The second in Sir Steve’s five-film Small Axe TV series topped the magazine’s poll of the best 2020 releases, ahead of Time, and First Cow.
His collection celebrates British black culture and its Caribbean heritage.
He said “the environment is a little more fertile than it’s ever been”.
“To be honest with you, black and brown-skinned people have not been really welcomed into the film and television community,” he told BBC Breakfast on Friday.
“But now things are sort of changing things and people are realising that things need to be sorted and things need to be changed and there’s opportunities there – we’ve just got to take them when we get them.”
Lovers Rock stars Bafta Rising Star Award winner Michael Ward and Amarah-Jae St Aubyn in a fictional story of young love at a blues party in West London in the 1980s.
The film, co-written by Sir Steve and Courttia Newland, is an ode to the romantic reggae genre called lovers rock, and to the black youth who found freedom and love in its sound at house parties, at a time when they were unwelcome in many white nightclubs.
Sight & Sound editor-in-chief, Mike Williams, said it was “full of joyful party scenes celebrating closeness and togetherness, is a worthy and apt winner in this year like no other”.
Mangrove, the opening film in the series, was also in the list’s top 20, with Williams noting how “Steve McQueen is a filmmaker at the top of his game”.
It tells the tale of a group of black activists accused of inciting a riot at a protest, 50 years on from the “forgotten” landmark court case.
Sir Steve added that he made the Small Axe series, which tackles a range of issues around race relations, so that people like his own mother could see stories like their own reflected.
“Firstly, I wanted to make Small Axe for my mother, in a way that you could turn on the telly and have it accessible to her,” he said.
“And that period of time from the 60s to the early 80s, for me, it was a time where things were being contested and stories, which were being sort of swept under the carpet, needed to be spoken about and needed to be seen.”
The BFI’s international film magazine Sight & Sound top 10 films of 2020