One pandemic won’t stop a show.

The 64th Annual BFI London Film Festival Kicked off yesterday in London with a socially distanced Mangrove premiere. The film, which is part of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology for the BBC, opened the festival with screenings at the BFI Southbank, as part of the festival’s 12-day hybrid physical and online program.

Mangrove tells the true story of the Mangrove 9, the group of Black activists who clashed with London police during a protest march in 1970 and their highly publicized trial that followed. Steve McQueen and stars Letitia Wright, Malachi Kirby, Rochenda Sandall and Shaun Parkes posed for socially distanced photos at the premiere of the film.

LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 07: Malachi Kirby, Rochenda Sandall, Letitia Wright and Shaun Parkes attend the BFI London Film Festival opening film and premiere of Mangrove at the BFI on October 7, 2020 in London England. Mangrove is one of five Small Axe films created by Steve McQueen, premiering today in selected cinemas across the UK and coming to BBC One and iPlayer on 15 November. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for BFI)

Mangrove “couldn’t be a better film for us to open with, or a more important film,” says festival director Tricia Tuttle.

Of the films, McQueen previously shared his reasoning behind creating an anthology series: “I felt these stories needed to be shared. I wanted to relive, reevaluate and investigate the journeys that my parents and the first generation of West Indians went on to deliver me here today calling myself a Black British person.”

LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 07: Letitia Wright attends the BFI London Film Festival opening film and premiere of Mangrove at the BFI on October 7, 2020 in London England. Mangrove is one of five Small Axe films created by Steve McQueen, premiering today in selected cinemas across the UK and coming to BBC One and iPlayer on 15 November. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for BFI)

You can catch the entire anthology series on BBC One and Prime Video starting on November 20. The full lineup includes Mangrove (11/20), followed by Lovers Rock (11/27), Education (12/4), Alex Wheatle (12/11) and Red, White and Blue, which stars John Boyega.

Watch the Small Axe trailer here.

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