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"Shaka Zulu"
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"Shaka Zulu" More at IMDbPro »

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37 out of 42 people found the following review useful:

Quite rewarding!

9/10
Author: Righty-Sock (robertfrangie@hotmail.com) from Mexico
1 January 2001

When Nandi and her unborn child are saved by the ancient witch doctor, he proclaims: "A force has been generated that in time will rock the foundation of the African sub-continent."

Indeed the prophecy shaped the event and Shaka was the ruthless founder of southern Africa's Zulu Empire... In less than a decade, the paramount chieftain of the Zulu clan revolutionized the techniques of tribal warfare and fashioned an efficient and terrifying fighting force that devastated the entire region...

Set against the emergence of British power in Africa during the early 19th Century, the film provides some valuable insights into comparative cultures...

Shaka (Henry Cele) is a man of considerable height, thin, with athletic body and white teeth who can read and write... He is a great warrior, tactically, strategically and physically... He rearms his army with a long-bladed, short-shafted stabbing spear, which forced them to fight at close quarters... He goes for extermination, incorporating the remnants of the clans he smashed into the Zulu, making it increase with numbers and power..

The Mini-Series begins with a letter to the British king (George IV) regarding the Zulus' potential threat to the Cape Colony... In an attempt to intimidate Shaka into an alliance with the British empire, the Secretary of War sends a delegation to inner African to meet with the fearful warrior...

We see:

- The meeting of Nandi, an orphaned princess of the neighboring Langeni clan and Senzangakona, the chief of the then small Zulu tribe... They are instantly attracted to each other... Nandi becomes pregnant, at the same time as Kona's wife, but the marriage did not last... Their marriage violated Zulu custom, and the stigma of this extended to the child...

- The couple separated when Shaka was six, and Nandi takes her son back to the Langeni, where he passed a fatherless boyhood among a people who despised his mother and makes him the butt of endless cruel pranks... He grows up to be bitter and angry, hating his tormentors... The Langeni drove Nandi out, and she finally found shelter with the Dletsheni, a sub-clan of the powerful Mtetwa...

- Shaka rules with an iron hand from the beginning, distributing instant death for the slightest opposition...

- While en route to Shaka's capital, the crew's doctor saves a girl who is in a coma and nearly buried alive by her tribe... Impressed by both the deed and their horses, Shaka agrees to meet with the crew... And so begins the clash of two cultures, two different worlds...

- Shaka, seriously wounded for saving an unknown warrior (King Dingiswayo), is nursed to health by a beautiful Mtwetwa girl...

- Shaka, believing in total annihilation, joins the Mtwetwa army and creates a dangerous weapon for the African warfare...

- Shaka grants Port Natal, with its ivory rights, to the British crew after he is saved by the crew's doctor from an assassination attempt...

- Shaka's mighty army saving the British delegation in a battle against thousands of Ndwandwe warriors... To test the alliance and allegiance of the British delegation, Shaka orders them into battle alone against the Ndwandwe warriors...

- With his mother's death Shaka becomes openly psychotic... Shaka rules by the sheer force of his personality, building, by scores of daily executions, a fear so profound that he could afford to ignore it...

Set against the spectacular panorama of the Zulu tribal homelands, and with graphic violence and frequent nudity, "Shaka Zulu" is a tremendous epic Mini-Series, chronicling the rise and fall of one of the most famous South Africans who has already passed into legend...

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28 out of 38 people found the following review useful:

don't you people know anything?

10/10
Author: colin mackenzie from United Kingdom
5 April 2005

i must say i have been having quite a laugh at the ridiculous statements made about this. 1: it was not a propaganda film made by the white government to woo the Zulus, utter trash! the white government wanted nothing to do with it, especially as it was being made by a white south African, it was only made because harmony gold the American TV company got involved. 2: it was not taken from the writings of Francis farewell it was based on henry Finns diary (played by Robert Powell). 3: the savagery certainly was not exaggerated thats me off my soap box. the film is quite brilliant, although not historically correct in many places as Joshua Sinclare has used a lot of poetic licence to make a more interesting story, not that the real story is uninteresting, for television. highly entertaining with very real portrayals of traditional Zulu life, i know i lived with them i am south African. but my saying has always been don't listen to others watch it and make up your own mind, i just don't like people who are ignorant and make comments with out knowing what they are talking about.

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17 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

A great . . . and awful man

Author: wrsgold from New York
29 March 2002

The Story is told based in the writings of Edward Fox's character, an adventurer named Francis George Farewell. Therefore, the more savage side of his nature is undubitably exaggerated.

To the best of our knowledge the salient points are correct, even to Henry Cele sharing the same basic build as Shaka, both of them quite imposing. There is some European romanticism tossed in, but it should be must viewing for anyone who loves history. Pooh-poohed by some critics as preposterous (as was Ghost in the Darkness, also an essentially true story), it is no more amazing than Napoleon's rise from obscurity to absolute power. They parallel in so many ways, in fact, that Shaka is oft called the "Napoleon of Africa". Though many Zulus consider Napoleon the "Shaka of Europe"

The production was fraught with controversy (it was filmed in South Africa before sanctions were lifted) but tries to convey a complex and fascinating story set in a tribal Africa steeped in mysticism with ideas about life and death that were very different from Europe. It manages to convey those ideas, and Shaka's formidible intellect, quite well. On top of that, it has as its star the perfect actor for the part.

Highly recommended and worth the time it takes to view it.

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13 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Zulu History carefully reconstructed!!

8/10
Author: njmollo from London
22 June 2007

"Shaka Zulu" the ten part mini-series is an interesting mix of good film-making and bad film-making. Certain scenes are beautifully done and perfectly paced while others seem to be the work of a bored and untalented film student.

The late William C. Faure's talent as a director really starts to shine when the story is told from the Zulu point of view. For instance, the love scene between Nandi and Senzagakona at the river is beautifully played and executed. The scenes with the young Shaka are generally over played and poorly directed. All the scenes with the British are of a poor standard especially the pontificating and condescending opening scene with the Zulu King and Queen Victoria. The best British scenes are the ones involving Christopher Lee.

The acting is generally of a very high standard. Edward Fox is as good as always. He plays his part with dash and honesty rarely seen nowadays. Robert Powell is his usual studied and self-conscious self. The beautiful Dudu Kkhize portrays Nandi and for the most part she is very good.

The most remarkable performance has to be that of Henry Cele as Shaka. It is hard, if not impossible, to imagine anyone else in the part of Shaka. He is simply perfect in every aspect and is a surprisingly good actor. It is possible to empathize with Shaka, even understand him and this is because of the towering performance given by Henry Cele. He lets you inside the mind of this despot and translates his pain, confusion and arrogance. This has to be one of the best pieces of casting in cinema history. Conrad Magwaza gives a great performance as Shaka's father, Senzagakona. He plays the part with confidence, comedy and charm.

The production design and costumes for the Zulu sequences are first class. Also a remarkable amount of historically accurate material finds itself within the script and this has to be commended. The death of Shaka is open to interpretation but it is generally believed that a relative killed him either by stabbing him in the back or poisoning.

The contrasting styles of film-making that abound in this production are a shame. An inept scene usually follows an excellent one and visa versa. I am sure this was partly due to the tight scheduling and production constraints.

The musical score is dated and histrionic. A low quality keyboard orchestra pervades scenes that need no accompaniment and destroys certain well-crafted moments. The songs are pretty cheesy as well. With the wealth of extraordinary Zulu music that exists, it is a shame that the score could not have utilized its rhythms and instruments to a more satisfying degree.

Having so little African history on film, this mini series has to be classed as a classic. The whole experience is rewarding, exciting and surprisingly refreshing.

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10 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Great innovative series

Author: Alex-372 from The Hague, The Netherlands
1 June 2002

I think this is, unfortunately, a unique series, showing history at least partially from a Zulu perspective, unlike similar movies like Zulu and Zulu Dawn. These movies show history from the colonialists' side and therefore leave a lot of questions unanswered. What were the political and social dynamics of the creation and rise of the Zulu kingdom? What were social relations and even every day like? This series goes a little way in addressing these topics, only a little, but a lot more than any Western television series or movie before it, which is what makes it unique. It wouldn't be misplaced in any modern (high school) class room. Henry Cele is great as the Zulu king to be, the music is great although basically Western, and the story would put any soap opera to shame. Realism is tops, with all the major African players being South African and it being filmed in South Africa. Where it falls down or slows, is when it goes to the more familiar narrative of the colonials, although Edward Fox is good, as always, as is Robert Powell. The series was of course also very topical, because even though it dealt with a war and struggle 108 years earlier, it was also about a fight for freedom and independence that wasn't won until 13 years ago and that is still in the process of being fulfilled.

Recommended.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

A class act

9/10
Author: chrisn-6 from Cambridge, England
13 January 2006

Although I remember seeing some of the original mini-series in the 80s I had never watched the whole story. My interest was re-awakened when I bought the Shaka Zulu box set in the January sales. Having watched the whole series through I realised that this was a great story, very well told and well acted (especially by the African leads - some of the British cast seem hammy in comparison although Edward Fox to his credit is less hammy than normal).

There are good production values and great scenery (the series used many of the original locations from Shaka's life) and hundreds of "real" extras. All in all a refreshing change from the vacuous CGI laden "epics" which flood the cinema now. I think the fact this was a mini-series has led to this production being seriously undervalued. It is a lot better than many films which get given Oscars.

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Great action, atmosphere, acting: great miniseries

9/10
Author: James Kunz (jrkunz@umich.edu) from Rye, New York
8 March 2005

Although not a despot known to many, Shaka Zulu controlled an empire at the height of his power comparable to that of Napolean and was as brutal as Vlad the Impaler; this miniseries very successfully shows his rise to power, relationship with British envoys, and eventual fall.

As the mini-series opens, a solemn South African representative listens to the British elite, including Queen Victoria, belittle his people and then begs them to let his people keep their sovereignty. The series then flashbacks to the British embassy going to meet Shaka, running into trouble, and eventually earning his trust after an assassination attempt. The series then flashbacks to his rise to power from a young boy to the most powerful man on the continent of Africa. The flashbacks never get confusing, the story is always well told. The cinematography is brilliant, the acting (especially by Henry Cele in the title role) is very competent, and the characters are very compelling.

The series has a little something for everyone, although I think it would appeal more to history buffs like myself. In addition, there is substantial amounts of nudity, as most of the African women go around topless. While the nudity didn't detract from the narrative or become gratutitious, it is something to think about before letting younger viewers watch.

All in all i heartily recommend this mini-series, whether for a really, really rainy day or an hour at at time after work.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Excellent Story

Author: bassguy66 from United States
16 March 2012

Based largely on E. A. Ritter's novel, using diaries from Henry Francis Fynn (who is credited as providing medical care to Shaka after an attempt on his life from a member of a rival tribe) & James Stuart, this is a well told & well acted story. Shaka kaSenzangakhona's statesmanship and military prowess are some of the reasons he is rated as one of the greatest Zulu kings. Highly respected by his tribe this film shows the changes he was able to make in the way that the tribes performed in battle, he is known as a ruthless and effective warrior. Unfortunately this film is often hobbled by a cheesy score and some very poorly executed sound recording. The late Henry Cele was perfect for the role. Well worth watching if you can get by the results of budgetary constraints.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A highlight among 1980's mini-series

9/10
Author: t_atzmueller from Germany
1 February 2013

Thinking of South-Africa and the 1980s in one context, three things come to mind: apartheid, boycott and the mini-series "Shaka Zulu". I'd place this among the best mini-series of the 80's and 90's, among shows like "Shogun", "Tai-Pan", "Roots" and "North and South". "Shaka Zulu" has bit from all of them. It's got history; it's got adventure and action, it has compelling characters and story lines that keep you glued to the screen.

Shaka has most often been described as the „Napoleon of Africa", which isn't incorrect, yet, I myself do like to see him as the King Arthur of South Africa. This is mainly due to having read Thomas Mofolos "Chaka Zulu" prior to having seen the TV-series. If you're the reading type, I recommend you to pick it up; it's not only a masterpiece of storytelling, but combines history and mysticism perfectly. Some of the mystic elements have made it into the series (the prophecy of Shaka's rise to power; the forging of Shaka's spear), but generally the story of the TV-show is rooted in reality.

What's to be said about the actors? Well, people like Edward Fox, Robert Powell or Fiona Fullerton are beyond dispute, doing a fine job as would be expected. Same goes by short but poignant guest-appearances by the likes of Sir Christopher Lee, Trevor Howard and Roy Dotrice (superb as a decadent King George IV) but the real kudos must go to the South African cast which, despite being mainly laymen actors, come across as convincingly and authentic as they come.

Former South-African football hero Henry Cele embodies Shaka Zulu like Helmut Berger embodied King Ludwig II of Bavaria, imposing and final. Dudu Mkize virtually steals the scenes she's in, with a mix of grace and dignity that is rare to see on modern TV or Conrad Magwaza as Shakas father Senzagakona and Gugu Nxumalo as Shakas feline-like aunt Mkabayi. Sadly, most of those actors were never seen on screen again; Cele starring in a couple of low-budget action / horror flicks (among them "The Ghost and the Darkness), same goes for Mkizi and for Magwaza (apart in a guest-appearance in a film about Albert Schweizer) and Nxumala, "Shaka Zulu" that remained their only appearance on the silver screen.

In essence, this is a (mini)-series that makes you feel sad once you've reached the final episode: sad that it's over and that there is no more. One wishes it would have gone on, that one could have seen more of the characters, their stories, and more of the rich Zulu culture and its history.

I'd give it 10/10 points if it wasn't for the abrupt, sudden ending, which comes as a bit of a let-down, so 9 from 10 will have to do.

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6 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Zulu History carefully reconstructed!!

8/10
Author: njmollo from London
22 June 2007

"Shaka Zulu" the ten part mini-series is an interesting mix of good film-making and bad film-making. Certain scenes are beautifully done and perfectly paced while others seem to be the work of a bored and untalented film student.

The late William C. Faure's talent as a director really starts to shine when the story is told from the Zulu point of view. For instance, the love scene between Nandi and Senzagakona at the river is beautifully played and executed. The scenes with the young Shaka are generally over played and poorly directed. All the scenes with the British are of a poor standard especially the pontificating and condescending opening scene with the Zulu King and Queen Victoria. The best British scenes are the ones involving Christopher Lee.

The acting is generally of a very high standard. Edward Fox is as good as always. He plays his part with dash and honesty rarely seen nowadays. Robert Powell is his usual studied and self-conscious self. The beautiful Dudu Kkhize portrays Nandi and for the most part she is very good.

The most remarkable performance has to be that of Henry Cele as Shaka. It is hard, if not impossible, to imagine anyone else in the part of Shaka. He is simply perfect in every aspect and is a surprisingly good actor. It is possible to empathize with Shaka, even understand him and this is because of the towering performance given by Henry Cele. He lets you inside the mind of this despot and translates his pain, confusion and arrogance. This has to be one of the best pieces of casting in cinema history. Conrad Magwaza gives a great performance as Shaka's father, Senzagakona. He plays the part with confidence, comedy and charm.

The production design and costumes for the Zulu sequences are first class. Also a remarkable amount of historically accurate material finds itself within the script and this has to be commended. The death of Shaka is open to interpretation but it is generally believed that a relative poisoned him.

The contrasting styles of film-making that abound in this production are a shame. An inept scene usually follows an excellent one and visa versa. I am sure this was partly due to the tight scheduling and production constraints.

The musical score is dated and histrionic. A low quality keyboard orchestra pervades scenes that need no accompaniment and destroys certain well-crafted moments. The songs are pretty cheesy as well. With the wealth of extraordinary Zulu music that exists, it is a shame that the score could not have utilized its rhythms and instruments to a more satisfying degree.

Having so little African history on film, this mini series has to be classed as a classic. The whole experience is rewarding, exciting and surprisingly refreshing.

Was the above review useful to you?


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