History Buffs: Zulu
hello and welcome
buffstoday we'll be looking at a very special film that's near and dear to my heart one of my favorite African adventure films is a kid
Zulubased on the Battle of Rorke's drift this is the story of how just 150 British soldiers were besieged by 4000
Zuluwarriors deep in the heartland of South Africa it's a prime example of classic cinema with epic battle scenes breathtaking landscapes and star performances but the greatest achievement of
Zuluin my opinion was getting the audience admire the courage of both the Brits and the
Zulus with no cheap tricks to demonize either side in fact as a kid I was torn between who I wanted to root for so aside from the obvious nostalgic affection you'll be hearing in this review this was one of the first films that triggered my fascination with
historyso it only seems right to look at both the film and the actual
historybehind the film this is
Zuluso the film is set in 1879 South Africa during the colonization by the British this was at an integral point in time where the British were coming closer and closer to conflict with the
Zulus an uneasy truce existed between the two empires and there was relative peace the British were able to continue their expansion in South Africa and the
Zulukingdom was allowed to continue its way of life however this truce was tested when diamonds were discovered in Kimberley although only 800 miles away from
Zululand the British began to reconsider their...
position South Africa and its natural resources pressed by white settlers and the untapped wealth of
Zululand war was inevitable amidst the increasing border clashes between the white settlers and the proud
Zuluwarriors an ultimatum of 13 terms was delivered to the
ZuluKing Quechua Oh in it a deadline of 20 days was given where the
Zulus were demanded to disband their army and absorbed the regiment system the very way of life the
Zulus depended on now the closest way I can describe the
Zulus is if you can imagine the ancient Spartans of Greece it was a culture based on warfare the regimen system is a conscription of all young boys around the age of 40 to constantly train for the army and swear loyalty to their King more than a forced conscription it was a system of government the held a
Zulunation together when the 20 days had run out and the
Zulus refused to comply the British had the excuse they needed to invade at the head of 12,000 men was law Charms furred he and his men were confident of an easy victory over a technologically in theory enemy the only problem transferred saw in this campaign was actually getting the
Zulus to fight he had it in his mind that the
Zulus would engage his forces with guerrilla tactics and avoid open battle so splitting his forces he led the bulk of his army into
Zululand leaving the remaining 1,500 troops to make camp at a sandal wanna at 8 a.m. that following morning British scouts were patrolling a valley nearby unintentionally they...
had discovered the entire
Zuluarmy a force of 20,000 warriors poised to attack the small in camp unprepared and overconfident the British didn't have a chance and despite all of their superior firepower they were completely and utterly annihilated this was to be marked down in
historyas the worst defeat ever suffered by a modern army against a technologically inferior indigenous force what I especially love about this film is how it approaches betraying the
Zulus despite them being the antagonist the movie isn't negative towards them instead it actually makes a really strong effort to show the
Zulus in a positive way but without being condescending every time a character in the movie says something that dismisses the
Zulus as savages or makes a racist remark of any kind there is always a character nearby to put them in their place what do you know about Julis bunch of savages isn't it alright how far can you run next March in a day Oh 15 20 miles is it fellow
ZuluRegiment can run around 50 miles and like a battle at the end of it now you have to consider the time when this movie was being made the Civil Rights Act hadn't been passed yet and apartheid was at its worst in South Africa with the political climate it would have been easy to make a film where the
Zulus are portrayed to be barbaric savages attacking defenseless white people instead we get a much deeper film than that one that isn't bias and doesn't play favorites the British are simply...
trying to survive and the
Zulus are fighting for their homes there is no evil arch villain on either side and that allows the audience's sympathizer of both the
Zulus and the British resulting in a much stronger film now moving along to the part of the film we finally get to meet our two main characters one is left hand and John char played by Stanley Baker and the other is left hand in Brom hair played by Michael Caine just like the
Zulus the Brits aren't portrayed to be any more or less evil from their introduction it's all about their personalities their motivations and how they deal with the situation they have been put in and facing annihilation their motivations are simplicity at its best you will all be killed like those this morning and now the sick in their beds all of you I don't think so mr. Witt the army doesn't like more than one disaster in a day looks bad in the newspapers and upset civilians of their breakfast aside from the approaching battle Bromhead and chard have two very confrontational personalities Bromhead was now a stock rat who came from a prestigious military background where many of his male family members were high ranked officers whilst chard was a more down-to-earth officer who preferred working alongside his men and most likely rose to the ranks they both have a set ideal of how an officer should behave that conflicts with each other I'll tell my man to clean your kit don't bother no bother not offering to clean it...
myself still a chap ought to look smart in front of the men don't you think but what I find interesting about Bromhead is that he seems to play up to the role being a pompous officer almost to hide his own insecurities of being able to live up to his family name you know my father was at Waterloo he was he got his colonel say after that did he my great grandfather he was the Johnny who knelt beside Wolfe at Quebec they make him a girl too no you you don't see what I'm driving it you're telling me that he hold a professional eye on the ammeter no what I mean is I mean I wish right now our damned ranker by crook or hitch you're not I am you're an officer under general he doesn't seem to really believe in himself once there is an impending threat but out of all the characters in the film it is his less able to grow the most the facade of social status and the romantic notion of war is thrown right out the window as they realize that only by working together can they survive so when we see them bonding and settle their differences we get a real sense of how the perception of war has changed so now to my favorite part of the film the actual battle itself and after a lot of buildup the film has already established how formidable the
Zuluwarriors are there's a real sense of foreboding is the British simply wait for the
Zulus to come and even more so when they can literally hear the
Zulus marching towards them damn funny like her like a train in the...
distance despite every instinct telling them that they should run they know that their best chance of surviving is to make a standard fortified position rather than being vulnerable out the open country so they wait and wait for a battle they cannot escape and when the
Zulus finally arrive you can see how almost hopeless the situation is for the British just by their sheer numbers to intimidate their enemies even more the
Zulus placed psychological warfare by chanting and smashing their shields together now it's interesting to see the differences in their battle techniques compared to the British obviously the Brits have an advantage with the use of projectile weapons I grant you that but we already know that the
Zulus have defeated a much larger force and they were armed with artillery cavalry and rockets they did this with an old Sulu battle strategy called the horns the Buffalo which was introduced by Shaka
Zuluright at the birth of the
ZuluKingdom the way it worked was that they sent their strongest warriors in the center representing the head and loins of the buffalo whilst the warriors on the left and right flanks with the horns when the centre engaged the enemy was focused on defense unaware of the horns encircling them it was this way of fighting that allowed the
Zulus to conquer an entire empire however this doesn't mean that the British don't have a fighting chance as well I mean I know that they have guns but you have to consider the fact that...
there's only 150 of them and their rifles can only fire once before having to be reloaded so they used their fighting technique that has also secured them an empire this was called volley fire the way it worked was that they would usually spread out into three ranks the first rank would open fire and then reload the second rank would do the same as well as the third and they would repeat by keeping this up they could pour continuous fire into the enemy now despite a few times in the battle when the
Zulus break through their lines before being repelled the horns of the buffalo was largely ineffective at Rorke's drift it was best use out in the open but here the British have an outpost with defenses and barriers and the
Zulus would find themselves in contained kill zones where avenues of gunfire would inflict horrendous casualties after a whole day and night of fighting the situation looks dire completely exhausted British wait as the
Zulus begin that final charge and so begins what is probably the most famous scene in the entire film when the
Zulustarts singing and the British are just staring death in the face but what happens here which I absolutely love is that leftenant John Chow looks to one of his men and says you think the world can do better than that Helen well they've got a very good base section mine I've know top 10s that's for sure and so the British starts singing men of Harlech in response to the
Zulusinging and it almost turns into a...
sing-off it's hard to describe but it's absolutely beautiful how these two songs collide with one another like two alien worlds United in battle with the use of voice finally the
zulus charge and as our characters make their last stand we witnessed the true destructive power of the volley fire system after the battle the British almost seemed traumatized and I really appreciate how we don't see any tears of victory they just seemed relieved to have even survived so you feel the weight and their shoulders for going through such a horrific thing there's definitely an anti-war sentiment going on here and the film doesn't revel in ideas of glory it's just stating what happened in the conflict both the
Zulus and the British went through we actually see the characters torment of what they just witnessed and question there are moral values does everyone feel like this afterwards how do you feel sick well you have to be alive if you're sick if you asked me I told you there's something else I feel ashamed was that how it was for you first time first time I think I could stand this butchers yard more than once even after all this destruction the
zulus come back one last time and they appear on the hill overlooking the outpost they then start singing again and because throughout the entire film we have seen a
Zulusing in charge we expect them to do so again the British now in their last legs expect to be wiped out and Bromhead simply says what are you...
waiting for come on come on but the movie takes an unexpected turn because the
Zulus are actually applauding the British for their bravery and recognize them as worthy warriors this they're saluting you they're saluting fellow Braves it's at this point that both sides develop a mutual respect for one another and this is something I haven't seen in many films though the
Zulus and the British are complete polar opposites they both recognize the courage takes to go through battle and overcoming your fear that it doesn't matter where you're from it's these qualities that all soldiers can relate to now as much as I obviously love the film's
Zuluthere are a number of historical inaccuracies I need to address for instance when the
Zulus are saluting the British that never really happened it's a great scene but there's nothing written down to suggest that it really took place the
Zulus did appear one last time but they were probably overlooking the British relief column pouring into rocks drift before they finally left another thing is that they didn't retreat out of respect they were treated because they weren't supposed to attack Rorke's drift in the first place in fact kinkajou io gave specific orders not to attack the British he had won an important battle at Isan DeWanna and he could state his case that he was simply defending his homeland in the movie we see King quechua at the wedding ceremony giving the order to leave land...
and attack the British which completely contradicts what he really wanted and that was forcing the British to renegotiate by attacking rocks tripped he could be seen as an aggressor which was the last thing he wanted and was unfortunately the exact excuse the British needed to reinvade