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Menelik Shabazz

Born in Barbados, date unknown

Menelik Shabazz, a British film maker, is best known for directing the 1981 feature film, Burning an Illusion. It tells the story of the emergence into consciousness and activism of a young Black Londoner, Pat. Her life is settled. She holds down a decent job, is hard working and aspires for further success, societal respectability and the good material things of life. Pat has a troubled and unsettled boyfriend, Del, and it is the turbulence of their relationship that forms such a compelling and absorbing narrative for the film. Pat is exasperated and vexed by what she sees as the antics and lack of seriousness of her boyfriend. Yet when Del is unfairly incarcerated after a provocative confrontation with the police, Pat’s life is turned on its head. She realised that she has been chasing empty dreams and a yawning sense of lack opens up in her life. It is Pat’s growing sense of racial injustice and emerging consciousness that forms the film’s turning point. Eschewing caricature and stereotype, Burning an Illusion treats its protagonists as individual human beings, each one struggling to make sense of their lives and struggling to progress to better lives, despite sometimes brutal and formidable obstacles. The film features a brief non-speaking part by Shakka Dedi, who went on be the first Director of The Black-Art Gallery in 1981.

The other film that Shabazz made during the 1980s was Time and Judgement, made in 1988.

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