Sunday, January 13, 2008

Movie Review: Zulu

We watched Zulu (1964) today. Interesting movie - hard to say whether it's pro- or anti-imperialist. Fuller review soon. For now, here's an interesting viewpoint:


Since such a vast number of British soldiers appeared to be killed during the encounter represented in the film, one then must wonder why there was so little to celebrate. Perhaps Endfield and Prebble were mindful of Rorke's Drift's true history, which was not accurately reflected in their screenplay. While there was a battle at Rorke's Drift on January 23, 1879, it was a one-sided affair entirely. Zulu scholar Magema Fuze points out, "The Zulus died in heaps there, killed by those white men in the building. They went on killing them until dawn, and in the early morning the Zulus withdrew defeated, leaving behind heaps of dead on the ground."

James O. Gump sums up the reality behind Rorke's Drift in his
excellent "The Dust Rose Like Smoke: the Subjugation of the Zulu andthe Sioux":

"Chard's forces, bolstered by Martini-Henry breech-loading rifles andample supplies of ammunition, sustained fifteen deaths. In
recognition of their valiant defense [Gump is being ironic here] at Rorke's Drift, Chard and ten of his men each received a Victoria Cross, the highest honor to be bestowed on a British soldier in the nineteenth century [described solemnly by narrator Richard Burton at the film's conclusion.]"

In other words, Rorke's Drift was actually a "turkey-shoot" of the kind that occurred on the road to Basra at the end of the Gulf War or which has just occurred in Afghanistan. Some things never change.

In examining the motives--conscious or subconscious--of Endfield and Prebble, it would be useful to take a look at their rather singular careers.

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Time traveler, world traveler, book reader