When African Odysseys began 15 years ago as a rolling programme of talks and screenings of films by and about the peoples of Africa and its diaspora, a key inspiration was film maker and cultural activist, Menelik Shabazz.
Throughout our existence we explored his work and previewed and premiered key titles such as The Story of Lovers Rock (2011) (complete version) and Looking for Love (2015) (world premiere), both films to full audiences. We also commemorated in 2011 and 2021, the remarkable achievement of his drama debut, Burning an Illusion (1982) in which the emotional struggles of a young woman and her lover are intertwined with the racial and social oppression around them. Once again, we are delighted to include the restored version of this seminal film in our current focus.
From his early years as an emerging film maker in the 70’s, working both alone but also as part of the workshop movement, his aim like ours, was to create a platform in which the broad community (rather than just the film-educated) could both see themselves and share their experience on screen and in discussion. In this season, marking a year in the passing of this warm and dedicated film maker we are showing a selection of both his most popular but also less well known but important titles, spanning genres and dealing with popular culture, hidden history and the everyday politics of prejudice and injustice experienced and resisted by the African diaspora community. Special thanks to Khemi Shabazz for her support with this programme.
Menelik Shabazz: For the People Join friends, fellow activists and film makers for a selection of extracts and complete film screenings as tribute to film maker, Menelik Shabazz. During the day, film makers and workshop collaborators will present some of his less well known work. Titles to screen in full will include Step Forward Youth (1977), his first film, Hidden Empire (1996) his account of Paul Bogle and the Morant Bay massacre in Jamaica and The Hand of Ken (2020) his portrait of artist Ken McKalla who worked on Time and Judgement. UK, Barbados. 1988. Dir Menelik Shabazz. 85mins. This will screen at the end of the day and is an extraordinary chronicle of the international tribulations and triumphs of the diaspora peoples of Africa during the last century. Fusing poetry, art, archive and drama, it creates a unique visionary experience.
SAT 25 JUNE 13:00-18:00 NFT3
SPECIAL EVENT + Discussion (TBA) Burning an Illusion. UK 1982. Dir Menelik Shabazz. With Cassie McFarlane, Victor Romero-Evans, Beverley Martin, Janet Kay
Produced and released at a time of great injustice and the widespread struggle for civil rights, this powerful coming of age tale follows the story of a young woman’s emerging political and emotional development. Made at the time of the New Cross massacre its urgent message of the need for
awareness on a personal but also a social level, is no less urgent a message today. It’s also a fine reminder of the richness of Black music culture, of Lover’s Rock and of a vibrant and conscious Reggae culture in which women played such a prominent role. This restored version (for later release on Blue Ray) presents the film in its original splendour.
Restored ground – breaking drama debut following a young woman’s passionate and challenging journey to enlightenment
The Story of Lovers Rock. UK 2011. Dir Menelik Shabazz. With Dennis Bovell, Paulette Harris-German, Janet Kay. 100mins. + Intro with author, Kevin Le Gendre* A highlight of Menelik Shabazz’s career, this documentary charts a key genre of black British music. In the ‘70s and ‘80s lovers rock provided the soundtrack to West Indian social life, fostering distinct forms of fashion as well as dance. Musicians Dennis Bovell and Janet Kay as well as comedian Angie Le Mar are among the many contributors who shed light on a home grown phenomenon that had worldwide appeal.
Documentary exploring the social and musical roots of the emotional music genre, Lovers Rock
Looking for Love. UK 2015. Dir Menelik Shabazz. With Kojo 109min. Digital. + Discussion
In one of his last films, Menelik Shabazz explores love, relationships and intimacy across the generations in the Black community. Using a mixture of interviews and group debates in this insightful documentary feature, the director covers the good, the bad and the in-between when it comes to Black love for the big screen.
Tickets from www.bfi.org.uk