This is another of David Millin's films inspired by his interest in South African history. It concerns the Transvaal Rebellion of 1881, when the Transvaal attempted to throw off British rule. It is based on Stuart Cloete's novel, 'Hill of Doves', which, let's be honest, is itself just one step up from a bodice-ripper. Apparently the film was shot in two languages, with an English-language throughout edition intended for overseas distribution. Whether this has survived I don't know; certainly the only version I have seen is the one released in South Afrca, which has Afrikaans characters speaking Afrikaans and English characters speaking English. Most of the characters speak Afrikaans! It also seemed shorter than the publicity at the times suggested, so some of the holes in the plot might be due to cuts. The story concerns the impact of the war on a Boer family living near Majuba. Since my Afrikaans is minimal I couldn't follow this, although frankly it doesn't seem to be rocket science. The film also suffers from an inane script (certainly the English bits) and, more fundamentally, from the need to offend neither section of the white South African audience who were its main market. The climactic battle of the war - Majuba - has a deep nationalistic significance to Afrikaners which makes such sensitivities problematic. On the plus side, the film has three great historical tableaux - the battles of Bronkhorstspruit, Laing's Nek and Majuba - and where else in a movie are you going to find those? All three are staged well from a historical point of view, and the lines of redcoats moving around the spectacular veldt locations have an epic quality reminiscent of 'Zulu'. The attack on Laing's Nek - the last time British redcoats carried regimental Colours into action - is particularly well done, although the film inevitably lacks the bloodiness of modern war-pictures. It also takes a curiously detached view of events, the result I suppose of a surprising lack of close-up shots to involve the audience in the action. But, particularly for anyone interested in the history, the attack on Majuba is stunning, and the locations are extremely realistic (it was filmed on Nkwelo mountain, which is next to the real Majuba). Oddly, the dramatic climax of the movie, the death of the British general Colley, takes place off-screen, presumably the result of the political sensitivities referred to - which does rather cut the guts out of it. But it's a very visual film, and, if you have an interest in the history, are not expecting 'Black Hawk Down' and don't mind the lack of sub-titles, it is well worth tracking down.
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