Earlier this year, on the 10th June, a red carpet, star studded gala screening of the new digitally re-mastered, wide screen version of the iconic movie, Zulu, celebrated the 50th Anniversary of its release at The Odeon Leicester Square, London.
The film, which chronicles the events at the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, tells the story of how 11 Victoria Crosses were awarded in a single action. The evening, which raised money for Walking With The Wounded, The David Rattray Memorial Trust and Sentebale celebrated this much-loved film and the work all three charities are doing with our wounded and in Africa. The screening was a digitally re-mastered version of the 1964 film starring Sir Michael Caine, which recounts the battle of Rorke’s Drift in 1879, when some 150 British soldiers – many from Wales – held off around 4,000 Zulu tribesman.
The main filming location was in the spectacular Drakensberg Mountains in the Royal Natal National Park.
Zulu Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi was among those attending the 50th anniversary screening. Buthelezi starred as his own great-grandfather King Cetshwayo in the movie. He was joined by Prince Harry and Welsh actor Sir Stanley Baker’s widow.
Just as the soldiers were played by real soldiers – eighty national servicemen borrowed from the South African National Defence Force – so were most of the Zulus real Zulus. A mere 240 Zulu extras were employed for the battle scenes, bussed in from their tribal homes over 100 miles away. Around 1,000 additional tribesmen were filmed by the second unit in Zululand.
For the opening sequence depicting a mass Zulu wedding, 600 additional background artists were brought in, including nightclub performers from Johannesburg, to play the principal dancers. During breaks in filming, they twisted and jived to modern pop records played over Tannoys, with director Cy Endfield among the crew members joining them.
The small but key role of King Cetshwayo was given to his direct descendant, the present-day Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. The wedding dance was choreographed by Buthelezi’s mother, a tribal historian, and supervised by stuntman Simon Sabela, who later became South Africa’s first black film director. In July last year, accepting an award named after Sabela, Buthelezi dedicated it to “that epic production, which became a milestone event, not only in cinematic history, but within the Zulu nation.” He recalled that the cast “found themselves re-enacting the deeds of their own grandfathers. Somehow this drew the audience into what was, in the end, a very human experience.”
The event was to help raise money for charities helping wounded soldiers and African children.
Watch the video of the 50th Anniversary Premiere below: