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Zulu: TAP’s Movie of the Month for February 2015

February 2, 2015

In 1964, eighty-five years after the Anglo-Zulu War, Paramount Pictures released Zulu, a slightly fictionalized account of one of the most famous battle of that war, The Battle of Rorke’s Drift.  The battle was just the second skirmish in the war, the first being The Battle of Isandlwana earlier the same day.  Both battles had tremendous impacts on the outcome of the entire war.

In the 1950s and 60s, Western movies about small groups of cowboys being sieged by Native American savages, Mexican soldiers, or gangs of outlaws were immensely popular.  This film took that theme and applied it to a real historical battle set in South Africa.  It was a huge success.  Critics praised the movie (despite some inaccuracies) and audiences came in droves.  The movie was nominated for and won several awards, and is still regarded as a great movie today. Total Film magazine ranked Zulu the 37th greatest British movie of all time, the BBC named it the 8th best war movie ever made, and Empire Magazine put it at #351 on their list of 500 best movies ever.

As we prepare ourselves for our trip to South Africa, which is just 125 days away as of this writing, it’s important to look at some of these pivotal moments in the country’s history, like the Battle of Rorke’s Drift and the Battle of Isandlwana as both moments in the past and as turning points that shaped where the country went from there.  Looking back, we can always play the “what if” game.  What if the Zulus hadn’t embarrassed the British so badly at Isandlwana?  What if they had finished the job at Rorke’s Drift? How would the rest of South Africa’s history look now?

It’s easy, fun, and educational to ask those questions, but when we watch a historical movie, what we also do is look at it with a biased view.  History, as we know, is written by the victors.  The British ultimately won the war.  The Zulu Empire was eventually broken, and we know all to well how that white minority treated the black African majority as time went on.  Knowing our history as we do, we watch movies like this through a different lens.  The antagonists in this movie -the Zulus – are the “bad guys,” but in the other movies we watched, like Tsotsi, District 9, and Sarafina!, their descendants are the sympathetic characters, oppressed by the descendants of the soldiers from this movie.  That makes watching movies like this one that much more difficult, but that much more important.  History never has just one side.  Never forget that.

A painting of Zulu warriors attacking the British outpost at Rorke’s Drift on January 22nd, 1879.

The Real Battle of Rorke’s Drift

The Battle of Rorke’s Drift was a battle in the Anglo-Zulu war, in which English colonists were trying to take land away from native Zulu people. The battle was the defense of a mission station under the command of Lt. Gonville Bromhead. A group of military engineers was nearby to build a bridge across the river. Lt. John Chard commanded the engineers, and although their rank was the same, Chard had seniority over Bromhead, and Bromhead had some hearing difficulties, so Chard took over command of the mission station during the battle.  Neither man had any real experience in battle before that day.

Somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 Zulus attacked the garrison on January 22nd, 1879, and the battle continued overnight into January 23rd. Just a few more than 150 British and colonial soldiers (including cooks, medical personnel, and wounded soldiers) were at the fort at the time of the battle.

Even though they were greatly outnumbered, the British troops managed to defend the garrison and repel the Zulu attack. In the real battle, just 17 British soldiers were killed. I didn’t count while watching the movie, but it seemed like a lot more than that were killed in the film.

The actual battle took place miles away, but the filmmakers decided to film it within the Royal Natal National Park, because the mountainous scenery looked nicer on film.

The movie actually premiered in England on January 22nd, 1964. It was the 85th Anniversary of the battle. Last week was the 136th anniversary of the battle. To celebrate, I watched this movie.

As with many historical movies, the filmmakers took some creative license with some of the facts. As mentioned, the location of the battle was moved, but several of the characters in the movie were portrayed to be quite different from their real life counterparts. One soldier, James Hook, is portrayed in the movie was a coward and drunk, but in real life he was one of the group’s bravest soldiers – winning the Victoria’s Cross (a huge honor in the British Army) for his efforts in the battle (11 Victoria’s Crosses were given in all including to both commanding officers – Bromhead and Chard). Hook’s character in the movie was so different from his real life character that his grandchildren walked out of the premier of the movie in disgust.

The Battle of Isandlwana

In the opening scenes of the movie, you see the remnants of a battle field in which it appears that the British troops were pretty much annihilated. That was the Battle of Isandlwana.

This battle also took place on January 22, 1879, early in the morning (the Battle of Rorke’s Drift began just after 4pm). This was the first major battle in the Anglo-Zulu war.

20,000 Zulu warriors attacked the main British column, including about 1,800 soldiers and about 400 civilians. The Zulus were armed with their iron spears and cow-hide shields, while the British troops had state-of-the-art Martini-Henry rifles and many other guns. Despite the difference in weaponry, the Zulus overwhelmed the British troops and killed over 1,300 soldiers (losing about 1,000 Zulu warriors).

The battle was a huge victory for the Zulus, especially considering it was a technologically inferior force fighting one of the best armed, best trained armies on the planet. Although this battle was a victory for the Zulus, the embarrassment changed Britain’s approach to the war, ultimately ending in a Zulu defeat. If the Zulus had not defeated the British so soundly in this battle, they may have fared better in the war as a whole.

In 1979, a prequel to Zulu, called Zulu Dawn, was made that showed that battle. Some of the same people were involved in the writing and filming of the movie, but none of the actors are the same. According to most internet sites, the movie isn’t nearly as good as Zulu.

For years historians have wondered how the Zulus managed to defeat such a well-armed and well trained force, and this TV program gives a great look at some interesting theories on how the battle went down.  It is well worth the time to watch it.

Michael Caine

The many faces of Michael Cain.  Lt. Bromhead in Zulu, Alfred in The Dark Knight, and Finn McMissile in Cars 2.

The many faces of Michael Caine.  Lt. Bromhead in Zulu, Alfred in The Dark Knight, and Finn McMissile in Cars 2.

Michael Caine’s IMDB page says he’s appeared in 161 movies, but his portrayal of Lt. Bromhead in Zulu was his first major role. Zulu was a big hit and made Caine into a huge star in England and America. He’s had a long lasting career in Hollywood, winning numerous awards, including a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award in 1986. Most recently, for the younger folks, he appeared as Alfred in the Batman movies and as Finn McMissile in Cars 2.

Zulu was Caine’s first big role, but he almost didn’t get it. He auditioned for a part in the film, but his audition was so terrible that he wasn’t given a part at all. A few months later, he ran into the film’s director at a party. The director had just found out that another actor had to drop out of the movie at the last minute. The movie was set to begin filming in South Africa the next day, so the director was desperate. When he saw Caine, he asked him if he’d like the part. Caine was confused, rightfully so, knowing that his audition went so poorly, but the director asked again, “Do you want the part or not?” The next day, Caine was on a plane to Johannesburg, and his career took off from there.

Caine’s character, Lt. Bromhead had never seen real battle before the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, but Caine himself was a British Army vet, and saw combat in the Korean War.

During the filming, daily footage of the movie was sent back home to Paramount Pictures. Early in the filming they saw some of Michael Caine’s scenes and thought he was so terrible they sent a telegram (think 1960s version of an instant message) telling the producers in Africa to fire Caine. A secretary in the film offices there in South Africa accidentally gave Caine the telegram first. Caine spent several days waiting to be fired, but didn’t talk to the producers about the letter for fear that he’d get the secretary in trouble. Eventually he mentioned it, and the producers told him he wasn’t fired. To this day, Caine does not watch the daily footage on the movie sets even though most actors do.

Actors Michael Cain and Stanley Baker on top, with the real Lt. Bromhead and Lt. Chard on the bottom.  As we said, there were some historical inaccuracies in the movie, and the lack of awesome moustaches is the least forgivable change.

Actors Michael Caine and Stanley Baker on top, with the real Lt. Bromhead and Lt. Chard on the bottom. As we said, there were some historical inaccuracies in the movie, and the lack of awesome moustaches is the least forgivable change.

Stanley Baker

Stanley Baker was one of the producers of the movie, and also one of its stars, playing Lt. Chard. He was well known in England and Hollywood for being committed to many social causes, so it was his intention to make the movie as pro-Zulu as he could.

Several years after the movie was made, Baker purchased a copy of Lt. John Chard’s Victoria’s Cross (one of the most distinguished medals a British soldier can be given). It was a cool souvenir to remember his role in the movie he starred in and produced. When Baker died in 1976, the “copy” Victoria’s Cross was tested and found to be Chard’s actual medal. Baker never knew he had the real thing.

Near the beginning of filming, Baker realized that many of the Zulu tribesmen acting in the movie had never even seen a movie before. They had no idea what was being asked of them when they were told to “play to the camera,” so Baker had several silent movie comedies from the early 1900s flown in and he screened them for the Zulu natives. They watched silent (so language wasn’t an issue) slapstick comedies from Harry Lloyd, Buster Keaton, and Laurel & Hardy. I guess funny is funny in any culture, because it’s said that the Zulus enjoyed the movies very much, and understood what they were doing on the film set after that.

The real Cetshwayo, King of the Zulus during the Anglo-Zulu War.

The Zulu Extras

The actors playing the Zulu warriors in the movie were actual Zulu tribesmen. There were over 700 of them in the film, many of them direct descendants of the warriors that took part in the actual battle of Rorke’s Drift.

One actor in the movie was the current (at the time) chief of the Zulu Nation, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi. He actually portrayed Cetshawayo, the Zulu chief during the Angol-Zulu War– his own grandfather. Another actor had originally been given the part, but when the director saw the family resemblance, he gave Buthelezi the part of his own grandpa.

One of the movie’s technical advisors was a Zulu princess. She was the tribe’s historian, keeping records and documenting the history of her people. She was an expert on the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, so when filming was starting, she drew a map out in the dirt, showing the director and producers exactly how the real battle was fought. They took her advice and shot the film exactly as she explained the battle went.

The Boer hunter in the movie mapped out the battle in a similar way. While meeting with Chard and Bromhead, he drew out the Zulu forces’ typical battle plans – which involved setting the troops up in the shape of an African buffalo’s horns, head, and chest– in the dirt. His understanding of how the Zulus would attack, helped the British troops plan their defenses. If you remember back to one of our previous online activities, we talked about a fictional character named Allan Quatermain (who was English, not Boer). Quatermain was the lead character in a series of adventure novels starting with King Solomon’s Mines. In King Solomon’s Mines there is a scene in which the main characters are preparing for a battle in which they are greatly outnumber by a tribal army, and Quatermain draws the same buffalo horn, heads, and chest image in the dirt to help his men prepare for the attack.

Because this movie was filmed during the height of the Apartheid era, the government’s Minister of Native Affairs (that’s code for guy whose job it was to come up with ways to oppress the black Africans) banned any black African citizens from seeing the movie. The government was afraid that the movie would incite a revolt against the white government. The ban was so complete that even the Zulu actors that appeared in the movie were not allowed to see it.

Another similar story tells that the Apartheid laws stated that the black African actors in the movie were not allowed to be paid the same rate as the white actors. The story says that the director and producers of the movie felt this was so unfair that to “pay” them anyway, all of the horses, oxen, and donkeys that were used in the movie were left behind for the Zulus. I don’t know how true this is, because I keep finding some sources that say this really happened, but there are just as many sources that say it wasn’t true and that the Zulus were paid the same amount as any actor that had a similar sized role.

If you’re at all like me, and you must be if you’re getting ready to travel the world like we’re doing, this movie may make you more curious about the Zulu empire and how it got to be the way it is. If so, you may want to check out this 1986 movie about the great Zulu king, Shaka. I’m embedding just part one of the movie, but there are ten parts altogether, all of them available on YouTube.  I highly recommend finding the time to watch it.

The Anglo-Zulu War and the colonization of South Africa by the British was a huge turning point in the history of South Africa. Looking back at history in a way that we can from 136 years in the future, it’s easy to see how an entire nation was shaped by the events in this war. The Zulu Empire didn’t last much longer, and native Africans soon had their land taken from them. Before too long, they were third class citizens in the country of their birth, with few rights, little education, and even less respect. Both of the battles discussed in this post were victories of a sort for the Zulus, but that didn’t last long. The war went to the Europeans and so did the country. This was the beginning of a very dark period for the Zulu people (and other native tribes).

Hopefully you took the time to watch Shaka Zulu and gain a better understanding of the pride, honor, tradition, and culture of the Zulu people. If you haven’t yet, please do. Even if you’re not traveling with us to South Africa, it is worth your time to understand a part of history in a part of the world that doesn’t often make it into our American history books.

To me, watching this movie was like watching the American Revolutionary War or the French-Indian War, but not knowing who to root for. If nothing else, what these movies give you is an understanding that there is always more than one side to history, and who the good guy is is all about perspective.

So, as always, grab yourself so delicious South African snacks and watch Zulu and the other videos we’ve posted today.

We ask that all of our South Africa travelers take the time to watch our Movies of the Month, then come back here to discuss the movie, the history, the places we’ll see, the events depicted, and the other videos embedded in this post. The longer and more in depth our discussion gets, the better it is for all of us. Please complete this assignment before our March meeting.

Zulu can be found for free on YouTube. Zulu and all the other videos we’ve discussed are embedded right here in this post for your convenience.

51 Comments leave one →
  1. Jordan Springer permalink
    February 9, 2015 3:36 pm

    Overall, I liked this movie. Maybe not as much as Tsotsi and Sarafina, but it was definitely enjoyable. It also gave an, if not totally historically accurate, interesting and unique look into the viewpoint and the thoughts of a British soldier at the time. In addition to this, the movie did a reasonably good job displaying the sights and culture of South Africa. My major gripe with the film was its portrayal of the Zulu society. Where H. Rider Haggard was respectful and even admiring of the Zulus, this movie was criticizing and demeaning toward them, showing them as primitive. It showed the British as heroic despite the fact that they were greedy conquerors. I didn’t know who to root for, and I had mixed feelings about this.

    • February 10, 2015 12:09 pm

      I know what you mean about not knowing who to root for. Believe it or not, the film makers were very active in social causes and tried to portray the Zulus as fairly as possible. Was there anything specific that bothered you about the depiction?

      • Jordan Springer permalink
        February 10, 2015 8:34 pm

        In particular, it was the scene in the hospital with Hook where, at least to me, it became evident that the British were the main characters or “good guys” in the movie. In that scene, the Zulus were easily killed by the British and seemed to demonstrate no will to fight or any strategy or tactics. When watching that part, it felt to me like the Zulu were the “stormtroopers” or had no other purpose than being killed by the British.

        • February 17, 2015 7:49 am

          Do you think maybe certain groups of Zulus were sent in like that to die – to test out the British defenses?

          • Jordan Springer permalink
            February 17, 2015 3:19 pm

            Yes, and I thought that was a beneficial, if controversial, strategy. However, when they acted almost cowardly in battle, it was close to derogatory.

            • February 18, 2015 7:56 am

              Do you think that was intentional on the part of the movie makers, or do you think it was a combination of an older style of movie making and real Zulu tribesmen who had never even seen a movie before, let alone acted in one, playing those parts?

              • Jordan Springer permalink
                February 18, 2015 4:28 pm

                I’m going to cheat and say it was a little bit of both. While the Zulus actors’ inexperience could definitely explain the passive way the Zulus behaved in battle, it still seems to me like they were unfairly portrayed. This could merely be the result of the Cowboys-and-Indians genre in the movie, but I still feel it was not a fair or accurate portrayal of the real way Zulus fought.

                • February 19, 2015 7:42 am

                  I’m going to ask you the same question I asked Brian and Kelsie – what would you have done differently if you were the one making the movie? Do you think that the Zulus were portrayed as less “savage” and “ruthless” than they really were in battle? If so, do you think that was to attempt to make them more sympathetic to the Western audiences?

                  • Jordan Springer permalink
                    February 19, 2015 2:03 pm

                    If I were making the movie, I would have had less Zulus die and the surviving ones use more tactics and strategy. Although they did lose the battle, it seemed like they were killed whenever a British soldier even looked at them. I also would have portrayed them as more ferocious in battle and shown more than the Zulu soldiers during the scene with the village. I do think that the Zulus were shown as more primitive so as not to make the Western audience, particularly the British viewers, feel guilty.

                    • February 19, 2015 2:36 pm

                      Look at the Battle of Isandlwana – the one briefly shown at the beginning of Zulu, and maybe even watch the documentary I put in the post. The Zulus won that battle, because 1,300 Brits were killed. Sometimes winning and losing are difficult to differentiate, though, because even though they won decisively, they had nearly the same number of soldiers die (1,000 Zulus).

                    • Jordan Springer permalink
                      February 19, 2015 6:52 pm

                      I suppose that’s true. Thank you.

  2. Cameron Smith permalink
    February 9, 2015 7:17 pm

    I really liked the movie. What I noticed right away was the effects are really good for the time and the movie chooses a great setting for the movie. But this isn’t as much of a movie I enjoy of the literature aspect but instead the history aspect is were it really succeeds. The battle scenes I might mention were extremely exciting to watch and overall I think the movie was a success.

  3. Stephanie Melendez permalink
    February 15, 2015 12:45 pm

    To be completely honest, I did not really enjoy this movie. I just never got into watching battle and war movies, but I did pull through and watched the whole movie! Although, I really did enjoy the beginning of the movie watching the Zulu warriors doing their ritual dance! That was actually quite interesting! The one thing I did not like about this movie is how the Zulu’s were basically criticized throughout the whole movie! I felt very bad for the way they were treated! But on the other side of thing the Britsh were thought of as Heroic and brave the whole time, even though they were quite rude and greedy! On a good note, I thought that Sourh Africa was portrayed beautifully in this movie! The setting of the movie makes you feel like you were actually there in South Africa fighting the war with the Zulu’s and the Britsh! I’d also have to agree with Jordan, throughout the whole movie I had mixed emotions and had no clue who to root for!

    • February 17, 2015 7:45 am

      Does it help to think about the fact that those British soldiers were not the ones making the decision to fight, but were simply following orders given by their superiors?

  4. Kelsie Stanley permalink
    February 16, 2015 1:50 pm

    This wasn’t my favorite movie. I didn’t like how the Zulu people were portrayed. I felt like they were shown as “lesser.” The British were shown as higher up on the food chain, if you will. I don’t agree with that viewpoint at all. Overall, I guess this was important to known about as everything there led up to apartheid. The Europeans had that kind of view from the beginning.

    • February 17, 2015 7:42 am

      If you had made the movie, would have had the Zulus as the good guys and the British as the bad guys? How do you think that would have gone over with Western audiences?

      • Kelsie Stanley permalink
        February 19, 2015 7:19 am

        I would have definitely made the Zulus the good guys because they were driven out of their own land. The British were the bad guys because they took it from them. However, a movie like that in the time period would never happen because all white people thought they were primitive and treated them poorly.

        • February 19, 2015 7:36 am

          This was a movie made by British and American film makers. While this movie was being made, both the US and the UK actively supported an end to the Apartheid laws in South Africa. The producer of the movie, who also played Lt. Chard, was a very politically active man and had a great deal of respect for the Zulu people. He’s stated in interviews that he made an effort to make the movie as pro-Zulu as possible. Why don’t you think these ideas are coming through? Are you (and many of the other students) applying your own 2015 ideals to the situation and it’s coloring your views? What do you think?

          • Kelsie Stanley permalink
            February 19, 2015 11:20 am

            I think maybe the views we have today are impacting how we see people because today I think we tend to see people more equally than they did back then. I think the pro-Zulu ideas aren’t coming through because the filmmakers probably also wanted to make the film historically accurate and the British didn’t have pro-Zulu ideas.

  5. Brian Cottingim permalink
    February 18, 2015 4:39 pm

    I didn’t like the movie at all, the characters were introduced poorly and there was not much of a plot other than war. And unfortunately that’s what I look for in a movie, and I was thoroughly disappointed. I felt like I did learn about the Zulu’s attack strategies. I noticed when the Zulus first attacked they threw their spears in the ground to show where the British were shooting. It showed me that although they weren’t as advanced as the British, they were still smart.

    • February 19, 2015 7:40 am

      Brian, it’s a war movie and a fairly accurate portrayal (at least on the battle side) of what really happened. I’m not sure what sort of additional plot you were looking for, but there was the pastor’s fight to get the wounded men out of there, Private Hook’s internal demons, Lt. Chard’s internal decisions (stay and fight or run and hide), and the conflict between Chard and Bromhead. If they were to remake a movie about this famous battle in 2015, what advice would you give the filmmakers before they begin?

      • Brian Cottingim permalink
        February 19, 2015 1:26 pm

        Now that I think about it there was some things other that war. Quite honestly the waves of Zulu coming in were pretty boring, almost nothing was different about it other that changing where they came from, but if I had to give advise to the film makers I would tell them first to ether explain or show that the waves of Zulus were different. If I didn’t read your couple paragraphs about the real war, I would have been totally lost.
        What I didn’t put in my first comment is that I did like when the Zulus stood on top of the hills and chanted (probably saying that they lost enough people and they wanted to end in a stalemate.)

        • February 19, 2015 1:35 pm

          That’s exactly why I write those paragraphs, Brian.

          The ending, when the Zulus were standing on the hill chanting before they left… In the movie they explain that it was to show their respect to the British for how hard they fought. In real life, that part didn’t happen. I’m not sure why the filmmakers added it.

          • Brian Cottingim permalink
            February 19, 2015 5:10 pm

            Well that was…unfortunate news. I thought it was a cool part of the movie. Haha, it’s probably why they added it, for the viewers attention.

  6. Hannah Breier permalink
    February 19, 2015 4:21 pm

    Throughout watching this movie, i learned a lot of things on Zulu culture. They are very different from other groups, but that is what makes them so unique. I also agree with Brian, that there was not much else besides war, and the ones that were turned out to be short lived. However, i do think the pastor was very effective. He was so passionate about saving those men and the British would do anything to try and ignore him. I do have one question though, Do the way the British treat the Zulu’s tie in with the roots of apartheid?

    • February 20, 2015 7:55 am

      Absolutely, Hannah. This is the beginning of the racial injustice in South Africa. The European settlers force the natives off their land, restrict their freedoms, and make them second class citizens in the country of their birth. Fast forward 50-60 years and you have the white minority government restricting those freedoms even more with the Apartheid laws.

      • Hannah Breier permalink
        February 20, 2015 3:32 pm

        It’s crazy how whites use to treat Africans. Zulu really does a great job of portraying the future for us.

  7. Dylan Blough permalink
    February 21, 2015 11:16 pm

    I felt that the movie went very slow in the beginning, but picked up during the battle. I think that this movie put a good visual in my mind after learning about the Zulu people. I agree with everything in Stephanie’s comment (2/15/15 12:45 PM) except the not liking the movie part. I admit some parts felt like they went on and on with no end, but as things progressed the movie got much more interesting.

  8. Kate Gall permalink
    February 22, 2015 10:57 am

    The movie Zulu was pretty interesting and the scenery was beautiful. I was interested in knowing where the movie was filled in South Africa, so I researched it online and found out that the movie was not filmed at Rorke’s Drift where the actual battle took place. Instead it was filmed approximately 90 miles south-west of Rorke’s Drift in the Royal Natal National Park in South Africa. The director picked the filming location because the mountains in Royal Natal National Park made the scenery more appealing then the actual flatter area at Rorke’s Drift.

    As the movie tells the story of the clash between British soldiers and the Zulu tribe, it reminded me of similar battles in the U.S. during western expansion and the impact it had on the American Indians. In South Africa, the British wanted to expand their colonies and take over land inhabited by the Zulu tribe and in the U.S. Americans wanted to take over land inhabited by the American Indians. Man’s greed seems to be the ultimate cause of these battles. It is incredible that the Zulu tribe was able to stand up against the British who had the advantage of rifles and ammunition. The sure size of the Zulu tribe worked to their advantage, although many died during the battle. It was disturbing to see how many Zulu lay dead or dying literally at the feet of the British soldiers following the battle. I also find it interesting afterward how the remaining Zulu tribe backs away and honors the British soldiers with their war chants as a sign of respect. This was certainly a humbling moment as clearly displayed on the British soldier’s faces. Overall, I liked the movie and it helped me gain a better perspective of what life of a Zulu tribe member was like during this time period.

    • February 22, 2015 4:33 pm

      I think you hit the nail on the head – greed (or religion) seems to be the cause of almost every war. The chant at the end of the movie didn’t happen in real life. It was added because the filmmakers thought it was a good ending. Does this change your thoughts about the movie?

      • Kate Gall permalink
        March 13, 2015 9:52 pm

        Sort of a downer that the chant didn’t really happen! This does not change my mind about the movie. I feel that the Zulu tribe had every right to protect their land and freedoms from the British.

        • March 13, 2015 10:09 pm

          It worked pretty well for them at the start of the war, but eventually technology won over numbers.

  9. Emily Blenck permalink
    February 22, 2015 6:38 pm

    To be honest, I didn’t really like this movie at all. I personally am not a fan of action movies or war movies so this was pretty much another drag in my book. Although I wasn’t interested in the film, I do have to say from what I’ve heard about the Anglo- Zulu war the battle scenes to seem to be pretty accurate. I think the whole entire movie would be a waste if it wasn’t for the mini history lessons it taught about the tactics of the Zulu and those of the British. Speaking of fighting tactics, I do feel as if I learnt a lot about how the two sides fought. While the British were more professional on setting up forts and shooting formations, most of the time (except for the leading up on their attacks) it seemed like the Zulu kind of just got their knives and went for it. I guess that could be due to multiple things like the technological advancements of the British compared to the Zulu. Yet overall, half the time I didn’t even know which side to root for, the characters were boring, I felt as if subtitles should’ve been in place to understand more of the Zulus side of the story… Just overall, bleh.

    • February 22, 2015 7:58 pm

      If you have a slightly better understanding of what went on in that war, then we’re happy.

  10. Gianna Kriechbaum permalink
    March 8, 2015 5:58 pm

    I thought thisovie had a very intriguing beginning with the singing and dancing. It really pulled me in and made me want to watch it and enjoy it. But the more I watched the more lost I got. This isn’t the type of movie that peaked my I interest. It wasn’t the problems they were facing or dealing with, but the fact that I’m not very into war movies. But with what I saw, I really can’t say I chose a side to root for. It was very hard. With everything that the natives had to go through with having to endure their own kind being shot by non natives it must’ve been a very difficult time. But its also hard to see eye to eye with them. I did enjoy what was going on in the movie but it was just hard for me to follow. Not my favorite of them all but definitely not the worst.

    • March 9, 2015 7:13 am

      Did it at least give you a better historical understanding of what happened in South Africa during that time period?

      • Gianna Kriechbaum permalink
        March 11, 2015 10:53 pm

        Yes, it did. I got to see how the british really felt about everything and how the natives felt too. I didnt enjoy it, but i definitely learned from it.

  11. cj moody permalink
    March 10, 2015 6:37 pm

    This movie is exactly what I expected it to be. The Zulus were thought down upon (basically shows why apartheid started). I feel like this was one of the more informational of the movies we’ve watched, which i enjoyed. I noticed that the acting of the war was pretty much how it happened in real life, and that the directors didn’t change it much like they usually would. That being said, I can say that this improved my understanding on a few things, because it’s different seeing things than reading them. I definitely agree with Kate, I noticed the parallels between American history and South African history while watching the movie. Foreigners trying to expand and take over the natives land for living space, resources, and then treating them poorly. As for the “not knowing who to root for”, I can see where everyones coming from with that, but i definitely was rooting for the Zulu nation the ENTIRE time. Not for one second did it cross my mind that the British should’ve been called the “good guys”. Over all, liked the history aspect of the movie, but wasn’t my favorite as a movie. I like movies with more of a story, although I did enjoy the war aspect.

    • March 11, 2015 7:12 am

      Good insights CJ. It’s interesting to see that you thought about the movie much differently than some of the other kids.

  12. Austin Stein permalink
    March 11, 2015 11:51 pm

    I’ve never been a big fan of the war genre of movies; they’ve never peaked my interest. I can safely safe Zulu was an exception… in some ways. After reading what exactly during the battle at the garrison, everything the movie displayed seemed pretty accurate. The Zulu people were outmatched and ended up overwhelmed because of weaponry differences, military skill, etc. It was a shame though; I knew the historical outcome of the battle, but I still wanted the Zulu people to come out victorious. It wasn’t too long ago in my History 103 class that we discussed the tensions between the Native Americans and the US, and this movie really shows how history can repeat itself; invaders from one world trying to wrongfully steal the world of another. And it’s for that reason I give this movie props: It made realize that fact. On the flip side, though, the first hour was too slow paced for my liking. Once the combat starts happening, the pace picked up really quickly and I soon found myself wanting to see the pre-determined outcome, even if it was depressing.

    As one final note, I would love for this movie, or at least this historical moment in film, to have a remake. It’s been over 50 years since this movie first released, and it’s apparent some aspects are outdated and can be improved on. Especially the hand to hand combat. There were a few times I noticed where the Zulu warrior was “stabbed” and its pretty obvious the spear was no where near his body. CGI could add a much better sense of realism into the movie.

    • March 12, 2015 7:35 am

      Looks like you have a job to do. Write a new Zulu screenplay and pitch it to Hollywood.

      • Austin Stein permalink
        March 12, 2015 7:31 pm

        I have aspirations to be a professional writer, so that could be a step in the right direction! Who knows? Maybe one day I will ! I’ll keep the idea in mind.

  13. erin seymour permalink
    March 24, 2015 5:19 pm

    Wow, first of all the man and his daughter at the beginning I did not like. I hated when the man said I hate to see so many woman choosing heir husband’s happy for they will soon be widows. I have never really been a fan of war movies. I did learn something from this movie though. The conflict between the Zulus and the British involved much hatred. The British did not look good in the category of humanity though. No souls. War has always gotten to me. This movie does relate to the Indians and the British colonies, like Austin said. The British want the Zulu land just like the British wanted the Native Americans land. Wow British, needy. This movie teaches you a lot about Zulu history and British history. Go Zulu keep your land. Again I never really liked war based movies but this movie was a good movie.

    • March 25, 2015 7:17 am

      Was there anything specific about the Zulu people that you learned from this movie?

  14. Maddy Trouvais permalink
    March 26, 2015 6:48 pm

    Honestly, I didn’t really enjoy this movie. I’m not really into watching movies about war and stuff like that. However, i did watch the whole movie. As a whole, as i said, i didn’t really enjoy it. But, there were some parts of it that I did enjoy. I thought at the beginning that dance they were doing was interesting. I really liked how they incorporated that into the movie to give us a feel about what their cultures like. I also really liked the chant. That really gave me a sense of how those warriors used to talk and the way they talked sounded cool. The scenery was also beautiful in some parts and I really like looking at the scenery in all of these movies and I pay really close attention to that because it shows me what the areas look like that we are going to be seeing and that really just interests me.

    • March 27, 2015 7:16 am

      I’m sorry you didn’t like the movie, but that’s not what this is really about. What do you think you learned from the movie that will help you better understand South Africa?

  15. Ronnie Stovall permalink
    April 9, 2015 8:34 pm

    I watched the whole thing I didn’t really enjoy watching it, but in the beginning was the best, but when the fighting started I wanted to turn it off. I know it is a old movie so I didn’t except the fighting and blood to look so real. And I know the British did win in the real battle, but in the movie there was suppose to be one hundred the Zulu’s killed at least half of that and more soldiers kept coming back up I was like what. And the movie made the Zulu’s look like losers. I heard how fierce they were in battle like in the beginning how they defeated the soldiers and took there weapons. When they fought it was horrible at least they could have killed a little more then losing the whole battle. I had to say how good they were at hiding there stealth was really good. I also understand how many lost there life’s in battle at least 3,000. I just wish the movie was a little bit more real

  16. Ronnie Stovall permalink
    April 10, 2015 3:00 pm

    Yes I know it was a older time, but there was no blood wounds and if there were is looked liked strawberry syrup it was pink. And the spear and gun never touched any of those guy except the cook that got stabbed in the back. And what was point of those shields it was leather and had no holes the guys just fell to the ground.

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