on December 28, 2004
One of the best movies/series I have ever seen; the story is epic and well-told, and the acting and cinematography are fantastic.
What I liked best was the ambivalent nature of all of the main characters, not the two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs typically encountered in movies (and series). Shaka, while certainly a great leader, warrior, and king, is also certainly an utterly ruthless, blood-stained tyrant; this production does an amazing job of illustrating these and other facets of the man. As other reviewers note, Henry Cele was just amazing in this role.
The English characters were also portrayed well; the leader, Lt. Farewell, is depicted as a well-intentioned rogue seeking ivory, but ultimately his relationship with Shaka changes him. Normally he might not be a very sympathetic character, but compared to the British colonial officials in Capetown, he is practically a paragon of wisdom and virtue. The Scottish doctor meanwhile attempts with rather limited success to school Shaka in the tenents of the Christian faith--Shaka has a way of turning all of the doctor's earnest efforts completely backwards.
Finally, a comment about the large portion of the series devoted to Shaka's birth and childhood--it is Shakespeare and Greek tragedy rolled into one--prophecies, witchcraft, parricide, regicide, vengeance, love, war, etc. Very very interesting.
on January 12, 2007
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 took her son back to the Langeni, where he passed a fatherless boyhood among a people who despised his mother and made him the butt of endless cruel pranks... He grew up to be bitter and angry, hating his tormentors... The Langeni drove Nandi out, and she finally found shelter with the Dletsheni, a subclan of the powerful Mtetwa...
- Shaka ruled 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... Thousands are killed in the initial paroxysm of his grief...
- 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...
on August 13, 2009
Although this item is hyped as "the complete 10-part television epic," anyone with an IQ above 50 can see that it is anything but complete. First off, the set contains only FOUR cds, which is a huge clue that something is amiss. The first cd begins with an epilogue of sorts, detailing the threat of the Zulu Nation to the British interlopers in Africa, and ends right after the shipwreck of Freewell's crew and the taking of the translator crew member by the Zulus. However, cd #2 begins its narration talking about Nandi and baby Shaka's status as they relocate to another clan as if the viewers are already familiar with her and the issues surrounding her migration. And, even though cd #2 ends with Nandi and her two elementary-school-aged children being accepted into another clan, cd #3 opens with Freewell and his crew admidst the Zulus and a much, much older Shaka followed by the assassination attempt on Shaka's life. At this point in the series I became thoroughly disgusted. I had watched this series on A&E twice before and remember some of the crucial parts that were excised, namely Shaka's evolution as a warrior and leader, his influence upon the nature of warfare, as well as his subsequent rise to supremacy; in addition to the elevation of his mother, Nandi, and the initial meetings between Freewell and the other British interlopers...pardon me...crew members. None of these things were included in this collection, therefore for the makers of this series to proffer it to the public as the complete collection is disingenuous at best and thievery at its worst. I feel as if I have been DUPED!
on September 9, 2009
I purchased this because I wanted a non-commercial viewing of the series. What I have is an over-edited copy of the TV show. A lot of the dialogue/action have been edited out! My question is why? If you're selling "complete" doesn't that mean all of the series?
on January 31, 2006
The mini-series "Shaka Zulu" is a compelling story about one of Africa's (and indeed the world) greatest military strategists and king of the Zulu nation, Shaka.
Shaka's military genius can be illustrated by the fact that he was very familiar and employed most of the principles of war that modern senior officers learn at staff colleges around the world. Fighting a war involves careful planning and consideration. The Principles of War were used successfully by Shaka as important tools toward achieving success in war. The application of the 9 principles of war by Shaka can be illustrated below:
Clear Objectives: All his military operations were directed towards a defined, decisive, and attainable objective (except at the end when the British exploited successfully their superior weapons technology).
Offensive: Shaka knew the importance of seizing, retaining, and exploiting the initiative. He achieved success by aggressively moving forward, catching the enemy off-guard to force them to surrender or terminate their resistance.
Mass: Shaka's army used the concept of, "Shock and awe" of concentrating overwhelming combat power at the decisive place and time shocking his enemies into submission.
Economy of Force: Shaka used to focus the right amount of force at the right time at the right location.
Manoeuvre: Shaka would place the enemy in a position of disadvantage through the flexible application of combat power.
Unity of Command: For every objective, there was one person responsible for war fighting decisions, the great elephant himself (Shaka).
Security: Shaka did not permit the enemy to acquire an unexpected advantage except that due to superior technology, the British ultimately triumphed over him
Surprise: Shaka's wars were short, with few lives lost (on his side), and he largely achieved this through the application of the principle of surprise. Shaka would destroy his enemy's will to fight and do it as quickly as possible.
Simplicity: Shaka prepared clear, uncomplicated plans and clear, concise orders to ensure thorough understanding. Winning his numerous wars did not depend on his Generals alone, but on the initiative, bravery, and courage of those on the front-line.
on September 26, 2005
"Shaka Zulu" is dramatically effective. It's downright addictive. I watched the entire 500-minute series in a single day, because I just couldn't stop. (I actually watched most of it in a single sitting, but had to deal with a couple of interruptions near the beginning and the end.)
On that basis, I have no choice but to award it five stars.
Still, I must note a significant omission.
The series follows Shaka through his early life, his rise to power, personal issues he dealt with during the time he was king, his madness, and finally his death.
What is glaringly absent is any in-depth portrayal of the kind of king he was before he went mad. My knowledge of Shaka was quite limited before viewing this miniseries, but I knew that he had made changes to the Zulu economy, judicial system (if it can be called that), and other aspects of Zulu life. I was really hoping to learn more about this. What did he do in his role as king? In what ways did he affect the lives of his subjects? Were they better off or worse off? The kind of king he was says something about the kind of man he was, so this is an important part of his story, and I wish the miniseries had delved into it.
Despite that unfortunate omission, I can't help but award the series five stars.
on January 31, 2003
Shaka Zulu was by any standard an exceptional production. The cinematography, script, actors and setting were all superb. Henry Cele was extraordinary as Shaka and I can't imagine that there is an actor anywhere in the world who could have portrayed him any better.
The native settings and attire added greatly to the production.
The characters and performances were all top notch and the relationship between Edward Fox (as Farewell) and Henry Cele (as Shaka) was portrayed beautifully and powerfully. Drama at its very best.
This production is without doubt as good as anything I've ever seen on television or in the movies.
The DVD would have been greatly enhanced if post production interviews could have included Henry Cele. He was truly the star of this series, and that's saying a great deal given the quality of all of the other performances.
on December 9, 2002
It's refreshing to see the series in it's original uncut form. I bought this set, though, because it promised "Interviews with director and actors". Well, you get the director and you get Dudu Mkhize, who plays Nandi, but that's it. I was expecting to see at least a few minutes of the succulent Henry Cele (Shaka) talking about his experiences making this series, but I was sadly disappointed.
For those who are unfamiliar with the story, it tells about the legendary King Shaka, his rise to power and how first contact with the British forever changed the Zulu kingdom and it's people. There are a lot of supernatural elements in the story, but I have no problem being swept away, suspending my disbelief and enjoying the legend. The intrigue and disception that takes place at the royal court is much more "down to earth" in it's harshness and Shaka's cunning interactions with the British Lt. Farewell are powerfull and enjoyable. (Ofcourse Henry Cele's fantastic physique adds to my viewing pleasure too).
I would recommend anyone to buy this, it's great.
on December 23, 2006
I watched the entire series when it was aired on TV. I finally decided to spend $70.00 for purchase + shipping on Amazon. I'm so disappointed because there is a whole section missing. It doesn't show how Shaka was in training for war, how he took the throne from his brother and other important parts. What make matters worse is Amazon want returns to be unopened (which is impossible in this situation) or you should contact the merchant (How do I do that?). All I can say is be careful about what you purchase and make sure you really understand your options if you're not satisfied with the produce.
on July 19, 2007
I spent my teen years in South Africa, so I really wanted to see this. When I was young my parents saw it, but this is definitely not a kid's show, so I'm glad I waited until now. However, this is an enthralling (if disturbing) story.
Shaka Zulu has grown into a legend of mythical proportions, and my impression of the movie is that, the attempt was made to portray the story as it is told in legend. In other words, there is a lot of fiction, but it is not fiction injected by the writers--it is fiction injected through years of lore and storytelling. I actually like this approach because it somehow seems more real than if Hollywood just made up what they wanted to.
The actors did a tremendous job in portraying this story of the man known as Shaka. Truly, this is a gruesome story that is not for the faint of heart. There is enough gore to rival today's movies, and this was 100% a result of Shaka. Pre-Shaka, the Zulus were a small herding community that conducted its wars in a "jousting match" manner. Shaka, through intense vengeance and hate changed the whole outlook--not only of the Zulus but also of the whole subcontinent.
This story starts with the British attempting to reach Shaka to make an alliance with him. It then moves to a few episodes that show Shaka's youth so as to show his reasons for hatred. After showing Shaka's path to supremacy (and tyranny), we are again taken back to "present" when the British are attempting to communicate with Shaka. The whole sequence of this story works very well.
If you use short terms to sum up this story, there are several descriptions that could be used: brutal childhood, military brilliance, witchcraft and superstition, British arrogance, and painful love. This is really a fantastic story that covers the gamut of emotions.
In the course of the 8 1/2 hours of story, there are a few scenes that stood out to me. Maybe you will have different ones, but the ones that left an impression on me were: 1. The scene where Dr. Fynn is telling Shaka about the King of Kings 2. When the "swallows" (or whites) were forced to go to battle with Shaka 3. Shaka's reaction to his new son and 4. Shaka's reaction after the death of his mother. I guess all of these tie together in that they show Shaka's twisted way of thinking.
It's hard to say the ending of this movie was triumphant, but it was a relief. Be warned--don't watch this just for entertainment. While entertaining, this is a history lesson that will likely leave you feeling ill to your stomach. A powerful history lesson indeed, though, and you will see events that changed Africa!