Blu-Ray Review: Burning an Illusion

While Britain, relatively speaking, is a multicultural and diverse nation, this hasn’t always been reflected in popular culture. The experiences of the ‘Windrush generation’, and their children, have only been captured on film fairly recently. Indeed, when Burning an Illusion was released in 1981 it was only the second British film directed by a black filmmaker and the first to focus on the female experience. It remains a fascinating portrait of a time and place.

Despite having a loving family, strong friendships and a job she really enjoys, Pat (Cassie McFarlane) feels like there’s something lacking from her comfortable life. When she meets the charismatic and charming Del (Victor Romero), a toolmaking with a growing dissatisfaction with his lot, she may finally have found that missing piece. However, as his restlessness grows, she finds her perfect plan coming apart at the seams.

Burning an Illusion is a frank and unwavering snapshot of a period in a country when institutional racism was rife and a burgeoning protest movement was gaining traction. Writer/Director Menelik Shabazz’s relationship drama charts a love story through the growing political and economic turmoil of early 1980s London. Burning an Illusion remains a fascinating and perceptive piece of British filmmaking.


  • Released 19 September 2022
  • Details
  • Extras
  • Presented in High Definition
  • Vintage commentary by Menelik Shabazz, Cassie McFarlane and Victor Romero Evans (2001)
  • Introduction by Menelik Shabazz (2005, 10 mins): the director discusses the background to Burning an Illusion and Blood Ah Goh Run
  • Cassie McFarlane Introduction (2022, 7 mins): the actor talks about her role and discusses the film’s production
  • Blood Ah Goh Run (1982, 13 mins): a short documentary on the response to the New Cross fire of 1981 and the Black People’s Day of Action
  • Step Forward Youth (1977, 29 mins): interviews with first-generation Black British youth on their attitudes to identity, family, police, race and fashion
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Gallery
  • Sleeve featuring original poster artwork by Anum Iyapo and Shakka Dedi
  • **FIRST PRESSING ONLY** 32-page booklet featuring essays by Alex Ramon and Dr Clive Nwonka, an archive interview with Menelik Shabazz and a biography of the director by Leila Latif

Burning an Illusion is released on Blu-ray by the BFI on 19 September.

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