Thursday, April 18, 2013

MOVIE REVIEWS: MY FAVORITE MOVIE, "SHAKA ZULU"

I decided I should write a review about my favorite movie of all time. Odds are you aren't going to know it or have ever watched it but in my opinion this movie kicks the asses of every other movie ever made, there isn't even a close second. 

William C. Faure's Shaka Zulu was actually a miniseries from 1986 depicting the life of the South African war Chief of the Zulu nation, Shaka. (technically pronounced Shaga in isiZulu). Although Shaka only ruled for 12 years, (1816-1828) he did more in it than most rules do in a life time. He took a tribe harmless herdsmen and turned them into a Spartan Army of a quarter of a million. Like Aztecs, Spartans, or Romans, Shaka built his empire on the idea of war, without it there was no economy. Shaka literally created the art of war and changed the lives of millions of people and dozens of local tribes forever (many effects lasting to this day). Before Shaka single handedly changed it, war was a fun event, much like sports are today, and rarely people died during these battles. Shaka changed that into hand to hand combat where total destruction was the outcome of every battle. The Zulu's had a battle cry, "Victory or Death." Once a territory or tribe was over taken they were welcome to join the Zulu nation, however they could also choose to be slaughtered instead with the Zulu's taking their cattle, land, and valuables (tough choice). In this way Shaka was able to gain more land and people for his army. In Shaka's short reign he gained more land than the Roman Empire or Alexander the Great and it said he was personally responsible for over one million deaths. His nickname was Isigidi or "the one that fights like a million," and was also known as "The Great Elephant."

Real life drawing of Shaka from 1828
So as Shaka ran out of tribes and territory to conquer it led him further and further south as they looked for more wars and into unknown lands, the land of the whites. Cape Town to be specific where the British Empire had started their African colony. Instead of an all out war which the British knew they could never win with the resources they had in Africa they chose a different route, to send in a few of their subjects to talk about a peace treaty. This is what the movie centers around. 

Coming in at 8 hours and 40 minutes, yes, I said 8 hours, this movie takes a long time to watch but is there a boring scene in it??? Not in my opinion. I also have watched it upwards of 100s of times, I really don't know how many for sure, but as a kid I used to watch it, then rewind it and start it as soon as it ended. I also know the movie word for word by heart, and I should if I've watched it that many times. I'm not big on watching a movie more than once unless I really, really like it and there are very few that I can do that with. However Shaka Zulu is one that I just have to watch from time to time when I'm feeling the need. 

You probably won't recognize anyone in the movie other than Christopher Lee, and he has a small part but when I saw him in Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings movies I was like, HEY I KNOW HIM FROM SHAKA ZULU! It also stars Edward Fox, Robert Powell, and Fiona Fullerton. If you know any of the actors it would be these few. But I feel the movie was stolen by the acting of its title character, Henry Cele who plays Shaka Zulu. I know they don't give out Oscars to TV mini series but if they did, he should have won one for best actor. He was in The Ghost and the Darkness, and The Last Samurai and was a native of South Africa. When it comes to a good movie acting is always at the top of my list and I can't think of a better performance than the one Henry Cele gave in Shaka Zulu. Oh I'd also like to add that in my opinion Henry Cele has the best abs of all time, count 'em ladies, it's not a six pack, it's an eight pack. 

The movie begins 60 years after Shaka's death with his decedent meeting with Queen Victoria to ask for his kingdom back. This is a short scene and the credits roll. We then go back to the height of Shaka's power and see the colonial Cape Town being worried about the approaching Zulus. This is what gets a small group of British subjects sent to the court of king Shaka as a way of avoiding war. This is all true by the way, it's also where the Zulu's got their nickname for their white friends "swallows" because like those tenacious little birds, as if by magic, they came across the sea. It is also said that they nicknamed the whites "swallows" because they built their houses out of mud. Either way, after the whites make contact we get to see Shaka's life from before he was born in a flashback as one of the whites, a doctor named Henry Francis Fynn (real man in real life) played by Robert Powell relays the story he has pieced together from what he has learned. In real life he truly did keep a journal of this event from history and you can buy it and read it, this is the source for most of our information about King Shaka. I like that about the movie, it is historically accurate when it comes to names, places, dates, and music. The movie shows us how the prophecy becomes a reality as Shaka's mother Nani's destiny seems to be controlled by the ancient izingoma (witch doctor) Seti. Shaka's arrogant father, Prince Senzagakona refusal to properly marry Nandi forces her to become an outcast. As Shaka is born he is the target of much harassment, (which was a bad idea because years later in real life he got his revenge on anyone that ever hurt his mother or him in anyway). 

The jumping around in time actually is a good break up for the movie and after Shaka is born, and grows up in hardship, and rises to power to take his rightful place on the throne of his father and his ancestors we get back to where we left off with the British in Shaka's kingdom. I always thought the movie started out slow because I never cared about Christopher Lee talking to King George about the Zulu problem, I just wanted to get to the Zulu fighting parts and yet I now think every scene is good and I enjoy all the parts. In fact I almost say, "this is my favorite scene in the movie" to every scene but then again I just feel it's that good of a movie. 

Music is a major part of any movie and for me, as I've always said, it can make or break a movie. Shaka Zulu in my opinion has the best score of any movie I've ever watched, and it's the best by leaps and bounds. Not only does it incorporate all the native music and songs that are 100s of years old but a beautifully orchestrated score that is heavy on the string section, (just how I like it as the violin is my favorite instrument). The music is always interesting and many of the characters have their own special themes, which intertwine with each other from time to time as the story moves on. Dave Pollecutt did a fabulous job writing the music for this movie but just knowing that it incorporates music that was actually used by the Zulu people back in the time of the real Shaka Zulu over 100 years ago is something special. 

As far as plot goes this movie couldn't have a better one. A real life story always captivates an audience more than something someone just wrote. The actual life of Shaka Zulu is ridiculously fascinating and was perfect for a movie. In real life Shaka was abnormally tall and well-built and as the outcast son of the Chief he had no choice but to take his throne by force (which he did). The most interesting thing, and something the movie does VERY well, is depict all the magic that surrounded the real life Shaka. The Zulu people had a prophecy and whatever you want to believe, Shaka fit that prophecy perfectly and then went on to do what the prophecy said he would do. It's hard to believe in witchcraft and magic and prophecies but it's a true story and their people honestly believed Shaka was the one the prophecy spoke of, a main reason why he was able to do what he did, the people thought it was all destiny and welcomed it. Again, this makes for a perfect movie plot because the writers didn't have to add things to make the story better, it was already right there waiting for them in history. 

There have been other Zulu movies. "Zulu" and "Zulu Dawn" however these movies take place AFTER king Shaka's death and deal with the British fighting the Zulus. It's actually kind of ironic but I really think Zulu Dawn is the worst movie ever made. Haha, I hated that pile of crap and wouldn't even waste my time bashing it anymore than this. They just don't compare to the movie Shaka Zulu. From the freaky old witch doctor Seti, to the pygmies, to the bloody battle scenes, to the breath taking scenery  South Africa supplies, to the meddling British Empire, to the love story, this movie really does have something for everyone. 

I know how long this movie is, and I understand they don't play it on TV anymore like they did back in the 80's.....on TBS if you'd believe it, considering there is a lot of nudity, but I really encourage everyone to watch this movie, it's worth it. As a mini series it always leaves you wanting more right at a critical point. The actors get an A+ in my opinion. The music gets an A+ as again, I think it is the best score ever written. The plot also gets an A+ because it has everything, action, adventure, a love story, and knowing it's a true story just adds to the enticement. It's exciting and leaves you on the edge of your seat. Well it did, and does, for me anyway! Overall I give this movie my best rating for any movie, an A+++. No matter how many times I watch this movie it never gets old and I always find it inspirational. You can watch it and hate it but as for me, there is no better movie to watch than Shaka Zulu. 

For those of you that want to see some clips from the movie, I have added a few links to youtube videos from the actual movie. Not as good as the entire thing, but gives you an idea. Keep in mind some of these scenes contain nudity and violence that is graphic, viewer discretion is advised. There are many clips online but as youtube goes some of these clips may be taken down as they are not mine.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBIOfx4wYBU
At the start of every episode we have this intro which never gets old for me.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUYhjgFZVm8
In this clip Shaka has come back to take over the throne. Nandi then takes her place as Queen of the Zulus which for her was very important as she had been an outcast for many years and gets to take her place as the most powerful woman in the kingdom.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylY_m-h4B-k
After being embarrassed on the battle field Shaka realizes that the long stemmed spears were not going to cut it for his intensions. Shaka is alone with his spear trying to figure out how to make his idea work. We see how the real Shaka may have come upon the idea of changing and inventing a weapon that had been used for centuries in that part of Africa. We then see Shaka training his men for the first time. It also comes right at the end of one of the episodes and the credits and theme song come on. In the beginning of the next episode it retraces its steps a bit and we see much more in between the invention and idea of a new spear and training his warriors.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J84iqdBXZnA
Shaka's making of his spear, a brand new weapon. The "nameless one" comes as he is the only one that can give the spear a power of its own. Shaka then thrilled with his short stemmed, long bladed spear perfects his new method of fighting. One of the best scenes in my opinion.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cS11Y-lEuP4
The battle that changes it all. A young Shaka uses his new tactics for fighting in a war against his father and the Zulu people, as he has not yet taken the throne. It surprises everyone and changes battles forever.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NT910Cm2WgM
Shaka is speaking to King Dingeswayo of the Mtetwa's. Shaka is a general in his army and argues that his method is the only way to protect the kingdom from Shaka's main rival Zwide. Shaka asks for complete control of the army so he can train them as he sees fit. This is upsetting Dingeswayo as he would rather have his army's power used for peace. We get to hear Shaka's motto that Nandi taught him at a young age, "Never leave and enemy behind, or it will rise again to fly at your throat."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VsUAblRn7U
In this scene Shaka's love interest Pampata sings to General Shaka the song "Wemsheli Wami" but at the end is interrupted by news for Shaka by his troops.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4lWIKidY98
One of my favorite scenes, Shaka for the first time appears after an assassination attempt by his half brother, that we get to see stunned that Shaka has survived. Everyone thought Shaka would die but the with the white's help Shaka survives and goes out for the first time to put all the rumors of his supposed death to an end. Barely able to stand, let alone walk, Shaka makes his way to his people. The movie also explains that he was dying and this helps him to recover. I also love the part where Shaka's aunt bows to him, as she was in on the attempt on his life. Also another perfect example of how the music impacts the movie.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EPGWuc8clw
At the news of Shaka's father death, Shaka prepares to go back and take his rightful place as King of the Zulus. Here we see him getting ready and hailed as King as his father's funeral takes place. With a terrified half brother looking on, knowing Shaka will come to take what was given to him.

20 comments:

Zawadi Brown said...

Absolutely LOVED this as well!! It's the only movie that I saw as a young child (6 years old) that stayed vividly imprinted on my mind. I have watched it numerous time throughout my life (I'm now 31) and came across your page because I was looking for it on Netflix and all that came up was Zulu and Zulu Dawn. Some of those scenes were terrifying to watch as a young child, but my mother was always about us learning about the power, merit, strength, and intelligence of our people. That is such a powerful story and a really well made show. I loved reading your review.

Mashudu Glynis Tshivhase said...

Love the movie too. What were Shaka's father dying words?

Saved Girl said...

Andrew....we are soulmates! Shaka Zulu is absolutely my favorite movie of all time too! I share EVERY sentiment in this review, kudos to this awesome post! Much love from Virginia, USA.

RyanCFoster said...

Absolutely agree that this film is one of the greatest epics of all time. We somehow got to watch this series as freshmen in my rural high school (in a white-bread town... surprised some parents didn't freak out, y'know, because of boobies, oh my! Ridiculous, of course, but anyway...) and I bought a truncated version on VHS my sophomore year and wore that tape out after re-watching it many times. So, yes, also one of my favorite films ever, and I maintain an eclectic list, to be sure... R.I.P. Henry Cele...

Andrew said...

Zawadi Brown, Thank you for the kind words. I still love this movie and I have watched both Zulu and Zulu Dawn, they are nothing compared this movie in my opinion!

Andrew said...

Mashudu, I believe Shaka's father says that Shaka will kill whomever I pick. Then he asks Mowgli to help him but is told that only he can use his heir. Then I believe he says the name of the son he chooses and then, I can never make it out, but I think his next sentence is cut short but he starts to say, "As long as it isn't shaka..." I THINK that's what he says, I always had a hard time understanding it.

Andrew said...

Saved Girl, thank you very much for the kind words. I knew how much I loved this movie and it is nice to know others out there feel the same way!

Andrew said...

RyanCFoster, that is crazy that you got to watch this in school, I always thought it would be great to show students this film. I think I have that same VHS tape, it is only 5 hours and they cut so much out. And yes, R.I.P. Henry Cele, I really wanted to meet him someday somehow.

Elishamah E. Odayd said...

Hi Andrew, it is undoubtedly the best movie of all time. Tell me do you remember which episode it is where Nandi attends Senzangakhona's wedding?

Karen Scott said...

Wow... I am sooo happy that I am not the only one who feels this movie was and is the best movie of all time! Watched it as a kid. And now my kids have their children watching it! Can't say enough about this movie. You are in the presence of the Queen was a household saying in my home while the boys were growing into men.Lol Let's keep the Movie Alive! The spirits of the ancestors grow power through generations.

Karen Scott said...

Wow... I am sooo happy that I am not the only one who feels this movie was and is the best movie of all time! Watched it as a kid. And now my kids have their children watching it! Can't say enough about this movie. You are in the presence of the Queen was a household saying in my home while the boys were growing into men.Lol Let's keep the Movie Alive! The spirits of the ancestors grow power through generations.

csel said...

Just flew back from South Africa and sat next to a woman originally from Swaziland who had a hilarious/bizarre story. When she and her sister applied in person for citizenship for her parents in the States, she was told it would take 10-15 years. The immigration guy asked where they were from and when she answered Swaziland, he asked if they spoke Zulu (they do) and if they've ever seen the movie Shaka Zulu (they have). He got excited and said it was his favourite movie and approved her parents on the spot! I swear this is what she told me today. Shaka Zulu movie fans must be a tight knit group....I'm going to watch it soon. I came across this review searching for info about the movie. Wow!

Unknown said...

Love to watch this movie around holiday or New Year. Today I am watching and realized that Shaka Zulu blows away Game of Thrones.

RyanCFoster said...

What a great start to this New Year. What 'Unknown' said above was the best line of 2017 and will probably remain so. Well said, sir or madam, well said... especially since the people and places in this epic tale of war and blood and intrigue ACTUALLY EXISTED.

The Great Elephant is coming...

Zarasha1 said...

This was the best review I have ever read about anything.Do you do this for a living? If not I think you should really look into doing this as a living.Rwading your review I was seeing the whole movie in my mind. This movie gives me hope. I had a ruff life and anytime I watch the movie It shows me life experiences build your personality. Like Shaka I have grown cold to the world.But Shaka is a go getter. He does not allow anything to hold him back. He had a powerful personality. His down fall was that sword. It was made with witchcraft.The witch warned him that the sword will control him and he would control the sword. That sword was alive and possessed him like the ring in Lord of the rings. That sword possessed him and tainted his personality. His mother's death made him snap out of guilt. His mother's last words to him was you killed me.This man went crazy and killed his new born child the mother and wife were hiding from him.When he found this out he slapped his mother and gave her very harsh words, after send his soldier to get the baby and kill it. That's when I saw the king was really traumatized from his childhood. He had really bad trust issues.Shaka Zulu is the best movie I have ever watched as well. Like you perfectly described it, every part is perfect.

Lockeys Candles said...

Can't agree more an thank you so much for such a detailed description. You would be surpririsec how many do know and ha e seen the movie. One amazing movie allowing us the honnor to know some of the Zulu history plus all actors portrayed tiger parts well but as to Charka and Nandi they were amazing . Thank you for sharing your blog Susan

Mo said...

Perfect description of the series from beginning to the end,the ending of the movie was sad for me even though he went crazy towards everyone,I don't think think there should ever be remake of Shaka Zulu because Henry cele was so believable he portrayed the part perfectly

Nkosinathi Buthelezi said...

Hi! Andrew! To be honest I'm hoping for a remake of the series, and this time narrated from the perspective of the Zulus.The narrative is widely rejected by the Zulus as highly inaccurate. One example:In the series King Senzangakhona takes kingship reign from his father King Jana after he died, but in actual history Senzangakhona was still too young when his father died, and a regent Princess ruled the Zulus in the interim. That Princess was was Mkabayi. Mkabayi ruled as a princess and not a queen, because unlike in Europe where queens are kings spouse; in the Zulu kingdom a queen was the King's mother not a spouse. Mkabayi had a twin and as was a Zulu custom at that time one twin had to die, but King Jana refused to kill anyone of his twins - as a result it is believed that Mkabayi's mother died. King Jama grew old and still had no son. It was Mkabayi who found his father a new wife; her name was Mthaniya from the Sibiya clan. It was Queen Mthaniya that finally gave birth to a son - Senzangakhona. That is why Senzangakhona was far too young, and younger than her sister Mkabayi.

Mkabayi remained highly influential, even after handing reigns to Senzangakhona that a Zulu saying was coined - Buzani kuMkabayi(consult Mkabayi), because she was consulted for countless number of issues that plagued the Zulus. She lived through the reign of her father Jama; through the long reign of her brother Senzangakhona; through the reign of King Shaka; through the reign of King Dingane; and finally died an old woman during the reign of King Mpande.

It was Mkabayi, who had grown fond of Nandi, that influenced Shaka to usurp power from Sgujana(Sgujana was the legitimate heir to Senzangakhona's throne). It was Mkabayi that plotted, together with Dingane, to dethrone King Shaka.She accused Shaka of being the cause of Queen Nandi's death.

Mkabayi never married because she wanted to maintain her political influence in the Zulu kingdom. During King Shaka's reign she was in charge of the Zulu military regiment that guarded the border of Zululand against enemies and consequently many spies reported to her. When Zulu armies were sent to war distant kingdom, they would not leave Zulu territory without having passed by Mkabayi for a pep talk. She would exit her hut in full male military regalia and walk among warriors singing war cries. There are many other important figures that made the Zulus supreme; like Ngqengelele, who helped King Shaka with defeat the Zulus most powerful enemies - the Buthelezi clan and the Zwide clan. The Mthethwa clan was also very powerful, but were not Shaka's enemies. The Mthethwa was the clan that made Shaka a warrior. It was the Mthethwa that taught Shaka military organisations of regiment according to their age groups.The fall of the Mthethwa was the necessary momentum that the Zulus needed to gain initial strength. Shaka was a Mthethwa warrior and rose to lead one of the Mthethwa military regiments which he used to take the reign of the Zulus from Sgujana. Later the Mthethwa King Dingiswayo died(killed by the Zwide), and the struggle for power amongst Dingiswayo's sons assumed. The Mthethwa got devided. Shaka picked a side he would support and defeated the other, and the Mthethwa were assimilated by the Zulu.

Unknown said...

Andrew you have written so many errors about the Zulu Kingdom under Shaka or Shaga or Chaka (which ever way seems historically accurate as many sources are different ). Firstly the zulu empire spanned no more than 29000 square kilometres. Under Shaka's reign the max population was 250 000 subjects. It is completely wrong to say shaka's zulu Kingdom was bigger than the Roman Empire or Alexanders empire. It never even came close. I am a South African and have lived here my entire life with family lineage going back 300 years. All your followers seem fooled by your gross innacurracies. Do your homework and write the truth.

Andrew said...

I have written zero errors because I was reviewing A MOVIE, which was not historical documentary. It was purely for entertainment purposes, just like this blog and the review of the movie. Again, THE MOVIE, not the actual people or events. I have no followers, just people that also enjoyed THE MOVIE and the review of....THE MOVIE. Not sure you understand the concept of a movie, but then again you are very stupid. I don't care where you are from, nobody else does either. Why don't YOU go do your homework and look up the term MOVIE. Then go watch it. Then come back here and apologize to me, I'll be waiting you stupid fuck.