Filmmaker Menelik Shabazz, Pioneer of Black British Cinema, Dies at 67

Pioneering British filmmaker Menelik Shabazz, who was a stalwart of contemporary British cinema for over three decades, has died. He was 67.

The director, writer and educator was reportedly in Zimbabwe at the time of his death, where he was believed to be working on his latest project. The news was first reported on Tuesday, and no cause of death has been released.

At 6 years old, Shabazz moved from Barbados to the U.K., where he launched his film career. At 26, he made “Blood Ah Go Run” about the response to a devastating fire that ripped through New Cross in South East London in 1981, killing 13 teenagers and injuring dozens more. The fire was believed to have been deliberate and racially motivated. “It was a historic moment that was important to document,” he said of the tragedy.

His first feature, “Burning An Illusion,” was supported by the British Film Institute (BFI) and went on to win the Grand Prix at the Amien International Film Festival in 1982. The film, about a young Black woman’s romantic life, is believed to be the second British feature film directed by a Black filmmaker.

“Terribly sad to hear that filmmaker Menelik Shabazz has passed away,” the BFI’s Twitter account posted. “Menelik was always at the forefront of putting films about the Black experience on the centre stage, inspiring many filmmakers and film fans, @tapecollective among them. Our hearts go out to those close to him.”

As well as making his own films, Shabazz created Black Filmmaker (bfm) magazine, which he distributed in the U.K., Europe and North America for nine years, and established the bfm International Film Festival in 1999, creating a platform to showcase Black talent.

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