‘Burning an Illusion’: Roundtable Discussion

‘Burning an Illusion’: Roundtable Discussion

As part of the International Women’s Day celebrations, Voice4Change England will be launching  a special roundtable discussion of the film ‘Burning An Illusion’

‘Burning An Illusion’ is a feature drama debut, written and directed by Menelik Shabazz in 1981. Uprisings in Brixton and Tottenham would shake London in the early years of the 1980’s, soon after completion of these films. Their call for youth to awake and fight racial oppression was never more urgent and prophetic.

Shabazz’s film of love and respect is set against a backdrop of racism and violence. Pat (played by the radiant Cassie McFarlane) is a young woman, naïve, idealistic and hopelessly in love with handsome, hot-headed, Del (played by Victor Romero). It’s a coming of age tale, of political as well as emotional growth. No less urgent today, it’s also a fine reminder of the richness of Black music culture of the period, where women emerged as protagonists in a vibrant and conscious Reggae culture – as embodied here by Ras Angels and Messengers and the legendary ‘Lovers Rock’ star, Janet Kay.

‘Burning an Illusion’ also emerged at a time of great suffering and solidarity among London’s Black community. Completed the following year but filmed at the same time as the production of ‘Burning an Illusion’, is the short documentary ‘Blood Ah Go Run’ (1982), co-directed with Imruh Caesar. It narrates the terrible story of the New Cross house fire which killed 13 young teenagers and which took place after a spate of arson attacks by the far right in South London. Yet it’s also a story of hope as seen in the overwhelming response which consolidated London’s community in the People’s Day of Action in 1981. As such it stands as a complement to ‘Burning an Illusion’ and the tribulations of both Pat and Del as they struggle to make sense of the world into which they are thrown.  

As a bonus to the film, Voice4Change England Director Kunle Olulode will chair a recorded roundtable discussion with the stars of the film and including Cassie, Victor, Janet Kay, trade union leader Margaret Greer and its director Menelik Shabazz (speaking from Zimbabwe where he currently resides). The discussion will be launched on the BFI Home platform on Friday 5th March 2021.

Watch Burning an Illusion online – BFI Player