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Spotlight on Steve McQueen, critically-acclaimed artist and filmmaker; 12 Years a Slave, Small Axe


Steve McQueen paints pictures with pixels, with film, and with sounds that take over your senses. Every work is experiential, moving, and organic, each experience visceral and imprinted on the brain. Once you see Steve‘s work, there’s no unseeing it. It stays with you, provokes you, moves you completely to the core of your humanity. Whether it’s his Small Axe trilogy, his groundbreaking videos, or the films he has so lovingly crafted over the years, the deeper you go into his body of work, the more you understand why his art is so vital at this moment in time.



Academy Award-winner Steve McQueen is a British artist and filmmaker. His critically acclaimed first feature Hunger (2008), starring Michael Fassbender as an IRA hunger-striker, won the Caméra d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008. He re-teamed with Fassbender for his follow up feature Shame (2011), for which Fassbender won the Volpi Cup at the Venice Film Festival for Best Actor; the film ranks as one of the highest-grossing NC-17 rated movies. McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave (2013) dominated awards season, winning, among many others, the Academy Award, Golden Globe, BAFTA, and AAFCA Awards for Best Picture while McQueen received DGA, Academy, BAFTA, and Golden Globe directing nods. His third feature, Widows (2018), was one of the best-reviewed films of the year and starred Viola Davis, Cynthia Erivo, Elizabeth Debicki, and Michelle Rodriguez. His most recent project, Small Axe (2020), is an anthology series comprising five original films about resilience and triumph in London’s West Indian community from the ‘60s to ’80s. Three of the five films in the series, Mangrove, Lovers Rock, and Red, White and Blue opened the 58th New York Film Festival in September.

McQueen is the recipient of many accolades for his work as a visual artist. In 2016, the Johannes Vermeer Award was presented to him at The Hague. In that same year, the British Film Institute awarded McQueen with a fellowship. His artwork is exhibited and held in major museums around the world; the Portland Art Museum has presented McQueen’s 1998 video work Drumroll, for which he won the 1999 Turner Prize, the highest honor for a British visual artist. A retrospective was recently exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago and at the Schaulager in Basel. Tate Modern and Tate Britain were home to two critically acclaimed shows in 2019/2020, Year 3 and a retrospective, Steve McQueen. In 2020, McQueen was awarded a knighthood in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List for his services to the arts.


Presented by Charles Burnett, director



The Northwest Film Center recognizes and honors the Indigenous peoples of this region on whose ancestral lands the museum now stands. These include the Willamette Tumwater, Clackamas, Kathlemet, Molalla, Multnomah and Watlala Chinook Peoples and the Tualatin Kalapuya who today are part of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and many other Native communities who made their homes along the Columbia River. We also want to recognize that Portland today is a community of many diverse Native peoples who continue to live and work here. We respectfully acknowledge and honor all Indigenous communities—past, present, future—and are grateful for their ongoing and vibrant presence.