Burning An Illusion
This weekend, the Screening Rights Film Foundation (SRFF) is showing Manelik Shabazz's landmark 1981 film, Burning An Illusion, a love story set beneath/against the shadow of Thatcherism, at the MAC in Birmingham at 3pm.
Manelik Shabazz was born in Barbados, but raised in the UK. He loved film, but was forced to drop out of film school over a local authority funding issue, but not before he'd gleaned enough info to pursue his dreams of being a filmmaker. Burning an Illusion was a breakout film and is a critical moment in a long and inspired career embracing film, print and TV. You can see all that on wikipedia and elsewhere of course. Manelik's most recent film, 2015s, Looking For Love, explored dating now, portraying something so potentially fraught with charm and real warmth. Unearth it if you can.
The screening of Burning An Illusion will be followed by a panel discussion featuring the star of the movie, Cassie McFarlane; Outsideleft favorite and good friend to this fanzine, photojournalist and television producer, Pogus Caesar, along with Dr Lisa Palmer professor of Sociology at Birmingham City University.
Pogus Caesar - photo by Brian Benson
Pogus was seen in the recent exceptional BBC4 arts broadcast documenting the suppression and the rise of Black British Art in the late 60s/70s++.
Anyway. If you're free, if Canon Hill Park is within reach this really is a rare opportunity to get down deep into the one of the most significant films in UK movie history.
Looking at it now, of course it seems odd that as late as 1981, the release Burning An Illusion set so many UK film firsts. In a recent interview I heard the critically acclaimed actor and writer Arinzé Kene lamenting the celebration around his play Misty - the first or second black playwright to transfer to the West End in history. Just about. (Like buses, there's something rumbling by about once a decade and now, with the opening of Natasha Gordon’s Jamaican mourning play, Nine Night, in December - two at once!). Kene stressed real success, some advancement could be counted when counting is no longer required. I made that up sorta, but he said something just like that.
Ade Solanke, who's own play Pandora's Box was big hit outside the actual West End said of Burning An Illusion, "Shabazz neatly avoids trapping his main characters inside the bubbles… that suffocate most black figures in movies… nothing else quite like it has been made."
So. Saturday. Burning An Illusion. A moment in time like all times it seems.
Burning An Illusion, 3pm Saturday
Midlands Arts Centre,
Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham, B12 9QH
Box Office & Enquiries: 0121 446 3232
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Hamilton High was born on Doheny Ave in the gutter, is a poet, writer and observer of popular culture. Likes fashion and cares less for style. He's on the move, he's an alter ego and we hardly ever hear from him.