South African director William C. Faure (who died in 1994) originally created Shaka Zulu as a 1983 miniseries broadcast in the U.K. Later released for theaters, this is the best-known biography of, and certainly one of the... more » longest narratives about, the legendary Zulu warrior-king, Shaka. The story follows Shaka's life in detail from his illegitimate birth around 1787 to a commoner, Nandi, through his tormented childhood at the Zulu court. Virtually disowned by his father Senzangakhona, the scrawny and introverted Shaka grows into a tall, commanding presence played by Henry Cele (The Ghost and the Darkness and The Light in the Jungle). Cele's subtle but powerful performance is fundamental to the impact of this epic--which, though slow here and there, commands our attention and humanizes the legend of Shaka appealingly. After proving himself a worthy warrior and rising in the ranks of a necessarily more militant society, Shaka lends his influential support to King Dingiswayo who unifies the Zulu Nation under the domination of his Mthethwa tribe. At Dingiswayo's death, Shaka accedes to the Zulu throne from which he expands the Zulu empire through successive military successes over all of Natal (today, KwaZulu-Natal). Faure's story is distinct from other pre-apartheid accounts of Shaka's life in its positive retelling of the Zulu Nation's rise to dominance in western South Africa and in its admixture of military and personal history. In this account, Shaka is not merely the intangible father of a nation but a common man whose life both challenged and taught him to lead. --Erik Macki« less
"Having watched and thoroughly enjoyed the entire miniseries on TV in the 1980s, I bought this set and expected it to be the same. I was very disappointed with the editing done to reduce the length from 8 hours down to 5 hours. The result is choppy, with dialogue frequently referring to scenes and sequences that were cut. In addition, there are editorial gaffes in some of the recaps of previous episodes where the cut scenes are recapped. These instances left me wondering what I had missed -- and then I realized that the scenes had been cut out. While this cut is still riveting, if you're willing to sit still for 5 hours of this version of Shaka Zulu, I'd recommend spending the additional 3 hours watching the complete version -- and at about the same price. It's well worth it!"
Awesome in it's power. One of the great epics of modern film
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Shaka Zulu, the story of one of the world's most brillant military minds, who revolutionized warfare on the face of Africa forever. This has to be one of my favorite epic films, i regret that i have watched it so many times that i know all the words, i wish i had never seen it before so that i could watch it again and get the feeling that i had when i first saw it 15 years ago. It dosen't star Elizabeth Taylor, it's not about the great British empire conquering the "savage" people, or about the "all mighty" U.S. calvary hunting down Geronimo and Mexican bandits out on the lone prarie. So you most likely won't see it on AMC or TCM anytime soon. They showed this on the History channel a few weeks ago and i was astounded, they finally showed something about black people besides Roots. Something where the black people weren't slaves or servants to White Americans, but were the heads of a large quarter-million empire that dominated any other on the continent. I found out recently that the white sport hunters nearly wiped out the Black Rhino population in the 1800's, only about 14 survived. Those 14 only survived because they were on Shaka Zulu's land and they were forbidden to be hunted there. All present day Black Rhino's come from those 14, so if not for anything else than for that alone, this story needed to be told in honor of Shaka Zulu. I am glad the movie is as long as it is [nearly 4 hours], the director didn't cut any corners to fit it in the standard 2 hours. Watch Shaka grow from boy to King, follow him on and incredible journey from outcast to ruler. I highly recommend it."
Excellent movie but no DVD features
historyone | 01/21/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It was a great idea to make a DVD out of this extraordinary series of Shaka Zulu. The DVD version is much better than the VHS version because it's the original full-length track from the original series. There is no cut or anything. However, there is no special features (subtitles, languages...) even though the cover says there are. Don't get tricked. There is absoluteley NO SPECIAL FEATURES. It's a pity because if included, those special features would have made this DVD a perfect one. Tha's why I gave 4 stars instead of 5."
Outstanding and important part of African History
historyone | Republic of Texas, USA | 11/25/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an outstanding series. This tells of the rise and power of the Warrior King Shaka Zulu. Shaka Zulu ruled with an iron fist over the Zulu Nation (current day South Africa) for over 30 years. Henry Cele portrays the powerful leader in a convincing way. This series never has a dull moment and is riveting to watch. Shaka Zulu was embittered towards his father who was a Zulu King due to his harsh treatment of his mother, sister, and grandmother and it is Shaka's quest to bring him to justice and to take over as King. Eventually, Shaka Zulu completes his goals and crowns himself King of the mighty Zulu Nation. The Zulu's were fierce warriors, just ask the British and the Boers. A European missionary who was in the Zulu territory said that the landscape was littered with bones and skulls due to Shaka Zulu's fierceness of battle and conquest.The story does end with the downfall and death of Shaka Zulu, as all mighty leaders must fall and die over due course, but Shaka Zulu definitely had a full life. He was cunning, a brilliant battle strategist and a great warrior, he is one of the few true conquerors of history, and is yet overlooked due to Western Civilizations ignorance of African history. Hopefully, one day this will be solved. There was controversy at the time of the making of this film in 1983 due to it being filmed and produced in Apartheid South Africa, but the film and the director due the Zulu's justice. It does not take anything away from the story and the proud history of the Zulu tribe.This film is highly recommended to those who enjoy a riveting film about battle, treachery, revenge and triumph. The historical accuracy is also quite good with just a few minor details that were not true, but overall it is a good historical portrait of the mighty Shaka Zulu."
An interesting take on an amazing person!
Mr. James A. Newton | London | 11/15/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The video is great; the one unfortunate aspect being that it is edited from the original TV series to a degree in which some of the characters do not fulfill their personalities and impact upon the life of Shaka. Aspects of Shaka's childhood have been left out that appeared in the TV series and which greatly help to clarify some of his later actions and personality traits. Yet another thing I found disappointing is that it is told from the point of a white man, a needless aspect.In spite of this though it is a great story of a little known part of African history documenting the difficult childhood of Shaka, his rise to prominence and forging of the Zulu Empire from a kingdom of a few thousand to one of hundreds of thousands.
Some great characterizations, a particular favourite being Shaka's maiden aunt Mkabayi. If anyone is interested they may also want to purchase E.A. Ritter's book 'Shaka Zulu' which explores many of the myths surrounding Shaka. A great video though and well worth the money."