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4.3 out of 5 stars67
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 2 November 2004
Shaka Zulu still invokes fear in the hearts of black Africans, even to this day. I lived in South Africa for 20 years, and I once asked our elderly maid (Who was a Zulu) about Shaka Zulu. Terror was written all over her face at mention of a man so evil yet so powerful. She never wanted to speak about him again.
Folklore indeed, but folklore has its point of origin. What people don't remember is that Shaka had absolute power over his people, and each of their lives. This is portrayed very much in the movie. When I first saw this as a mini-series I loved it, and thought it was an excellent portayel of a mighty warrior with a formidable intellect, that at one time was a real problem for the British, a country that was thousands of years more technologically advanced than his own.
In this DVD Henry Cele delivers a perfect likeness of the real Shaka Zulu, an incredibly brilliant man with a strong physique, who had a awful childhood, for which, through brilliant madness, he savagely took revenge, to become ultimate ruler of his world, the Zulu nation.
.....How many people have you heard of has done that before ?
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on 16 August 2007
I've first seen this series when it first came out on TV and it had me at awe and having watched the whole series through again I realized that this is still a great story, very well told and well acted. Filmed entirely on location in South Africa, Shaka Zulu offers an often-compelling look at a tumultuous period in African history, centering around the character of Shaka himself, who emerges as a complex figure teetering on the balance between leader and tyrant. What I like most about Shaka Zulu is that it never bows to stereotype and never simplifies the story down to "good guys versus bad guys. The British government is clearly in favor of colonizing Africa through fair means or foul; some of the British feel that this is wrong, though they are outvoted by those who feel that British self-interest (and power) takes precedence over the less powerful native nations of Africa. But it's also abundantly clear that Shaka is far from a heroic leader of his people against European colonialism. His rise to power is shown to be a bloody, brutal story of merciless warfare and the quenching of his own personal thirst for revenge; and in the end, we can see that a "great leader" can destroy a nation as easily as he can create it.

Who can forget Henry Cele? He does a very creditable job as in the title role, radiating the raw power of the war leader while also clearly portraying Shaka's keen and agile mind. The scenes in which Farewell and the others match wits with Shaka are some of the most entertaining, particularly when Dr. Fynn (Robert Powell) tries to direct Shaka toward the study of Christianity; Shaka's reasoned (and alarming, for Dr. Fynn) application of the story of Christ to his own situation is priceless. Edward Fox does his best to portray Lt. Farewell as a fully-developed character, but in this case, the series can be faulted for not being detailed enough, despite the length of the production. The concluding episodes appear to build on aspects of Farewell's character that are insufficiently supported by what we've seen of him in the story. It's worth noting that the listing of Christopher Lee as a co-star is hyperbole: he does appear in the film, but only very briefly at the beginning.

One thing that holds Shaka Zulu back from being a really outstanding epic story is the unevenness of the narrative; while some of the episodes are well-paced and interesting all the way through, others have less to offer. There are good production values and great scenery and hundreds of "real" extras, a refreshing change from the vacuous CGI laden "epics" which flood the cinema. I think the fact this was a mini-series has led to this production being seriously undervalued. While it's far from perfect, it is certainly ambitious, and does capture the epic sweep of Shaka's life and times.
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on 25 October 2009
I used to watch Shaka Zulu as a TV series long time ago & to find it on Amazon was like finding a treasure! The DVDs are of excellent quality & worth your money.
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VINE VOICEon 22 June 2007
"Shaka Zulu" the ten part mini-series is an interesting mix of good filmmaking and bad filmmaking. 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 poisoned him.

The contrasting styles of filmmaking 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.
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on 10 October 2003
I bought this three tape set some years ago, and have never seen it for sale again since. This superb drama, set in an awesome landscape, remains a strong favourite of mine. The interplay between Black AND White Imperialist forces is unique in my experience. The British are outdone in deviousness and ruthlessness every time they try to gain an advantage. This film puts the other, better known, Zulu films in the shade.
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on 14 October 2012
Various actors have played the part of Shaka Zulu and I have seen some of these but Henry Cele must be THE definitive Chaka Zulu.

For anybody interested in the Zulus, the Zulu Wars or even just Chaka himself should watch this production as the closest to the reality of the times that can possibly be reasonably achieved.

The film suffered slightly in that we never see the great numbers of disciplined Zulus going into battle but Henry Celes acting goes a long way to redressing this.

Only one thing nags at me though. When everybody around him seems willing to believe in witchcraft why was Chaka apparently immune to this? Where had he learned true realities?
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on 24 January 2010
I originally hired this video on VHS soon after its release in 1986. When browsing recently for a DVD on "amazon.co.uk" I stumbled across it, and remembering how much I had enjoyed the original viewing, I bought it.

Seeing it again was just as enjoyable as the first time, with parts I had long forgotten standing out as important features of the story. From what I have read, this video is close to portraying the actual events in the history of the Zulu nation, despite being a feature rather than a documentary. The interviews with the leading actors were a bonus and well worth watching. This DVD is well worth having in a personal collection as, like few others, it is seems ageless and can be viewed many times as an absorbing true story.
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on 25 August 2009
I first saw Shaka Zulu on Australian TV around 1986 and, as an African living abroad, it made me homesick.

Now I am home, and have rewatched the telemovie several times and my advice is: buy it, watch it, enjoy!

The script, structure and acting are first rate, but historic detail is where the late director, William Faure, scores best.

Shaka (1790 - 1828) was a tyrant who slaughtered neighbouring tribes into submission, so creating the Zulu nation. He was probably the biggest slave owner in African history and, when angry would impale his real and imagined enemies in the style of King Vlad from Rumania (on whom the Dracula legend was based).

But Shaka was also a military genius in the league of Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great. And, like those men, once he had subdued an enemy clan or tribe, those who surrendered were incorporated into the Zulu nation, with full rights as citizens. Today, while no racial group has a majority in South Africa, the Zulu at 15 per cent (or six million people) are the largest single community and this dominance stems from Shaka.

The series is long, and some of the dance scenes can drag, but the story is as gripping as the best period dramas from Europe or the USA.

Henry Cele (also now dead) who plays Shaka, does a good job in showing the madness that overcame the king, until in 1828 he was murdered by his half brother, Dingaan, who took the throne.

The Zulu monarchy continues today, inside the Republic of South Africa, and Zulus are rightly proud of their history and traditions. But Shaka remains the most famous character in the country's history and it is not hard to see why.

I recommend this DVD set and it deserves a full five stars!

Geoff Hill
Author and Journalist
Johannesburg
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VINE VOICEon 22 June 2007
"Shaka Zulu" the ten part mini-series is an interesting mix of good filmmaking and bad filmmaking. 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 poisoned him.

The contrasting styles of filmmaking 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.
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on 3 August 2004
I first saw Shako Zulu when it first came out, and I can partialy remember it. At that time it was a remarkable history of the Zulu Warrior, and I think still rated as one of the best historical films about South Africa, and the people who lived there before white intervention, ie ,the Boers and of course the British, who in turn brought about the downfall of a fine warrior army. After all they were only trying to protect their way of life and culture. I look forward to seeing it again.
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