How sad is this?
After playing with our expectations, this turns out to be a very different sort of film.
The film's masterful storytelling did its job. The message was clear. No need to overdo.
It’s fine. It's literally the definition of a fine movie. You’ve seen it before, you know every beat and outcome before the characters even do. Only question is how much escapism you’re looking for.
I must say I was sorry when I got to the 10th and last episode of "Shaka Zulu". I totally agree with the review by njmollo, very good. The acting of Shaka by Henry Cele is really what made the movie as good as it was and I could not think of anyone else acting as Shaka after having seen Henry Cele as Shaka, it has to be the top casting and acting ever. I find it incredible disappointing that when I look up Shaka Zulu the first actors mentioned are the white English actors, not Henry Cele??? Not saying that the acting by the English was not good but certainly not superior to all the black actors who were very good, such a pleasure to watch as was the portrayal of the Zulu culture and lifestyle. Loved it.
Although the scenes of Zulu tribal life were rich in detail, there was too much emphasis on the rituals of the tribe. One might think that all the Zulu did was engage in constant ritual and unending festival. The storyline switches from the introduction of the English to the pre-birth of Shaka with little explanatory background. This was docu-drama and not a documentary, but a certain amount of geographical and historical reference to the rest of Africa might have helped. The most difficult aspect of this mini-series was the highly accented English of the performers illustrating the need for subtitles, which were absent from both the original production, and the DVD version. Perhaps if I had been able to understand the dialog better, the story would have been easier to follow.
"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.
Although the first few episodes on the first disc were slow as molasses, I liked the middle disks. It was an interesting view into what life was like for Africans in that part of the world around 1800. The hypocrisy of the British and Dutch made me want to puke. (For instance, traveling over 6,000 miles to another continent to defeat the "savages" who were threatening the European way of life.) Even though the movie focused on African royalty and warrior culture, it would be interesting to see this time period from other points of view, like women or children. The movie covered a range of human stories: love, betrayal, jealousy, military, politics, culture, religion and triumph. There was even a good villainess. The movie tone could have been tongue in cheek or slapstick, but instead Shaka Zulu was treated with dignity, regardless of what side of history you are on. Makes you realize what a joke most movies are that supposedly show Africans before they adopted Western culture. The most annoying thing was the too loud, fake African chorus that kept intruding into the movie. It sounded like the Mormon Tabernacle choir.