Buthelezi’s red carpet

2014-06-07 00:00

NEXT Tuesday Prince Mangosutho Buthelezi will be treading the red carpet in London’s West End at the “re-premiere” of a film he starred in 50 years ago.

The classic film Zulu (1964) is having a charity gala screening at the Odeon, Leicester Square. Tickets range from £75 to £1 000 (around R1 300 to R17 700) — that gets you into the after show party — and the money raised will go to the British charity Walking With the Wounded, which retrains and reskills wounded soldiers, the David Rattray Memorial Trust, an educational charity that commemorates the well-known Zulu historian and guide who was murdered in 2007, and Sentebale, a Lesotho children’s charity founded by Prince Harry and Prince Seeiso of Lesotho.

Zulu recreates the battle of Rorke’s Drift in the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 which saw more Victoria Crosses awarded to a single regiment — 11 in all — than for any other action in British military history. The film starred Stanley Baker (who also produced the it) and provided a breakthrough role for Michael Caine. Buthelezi played the Zulu king Cetshwayo.

“I look forward to seeing the film again, especially as it is for charity,” said Buthelezi who, with Prince Charles, is a patron of the David Rattray Foundation. “The film depicted bravery on both sides,” said Buthelezi. “Both the director, Cy Endfield, and Stanley Baker said they aimed to do that.”

Buthelezi said Baker was a “very friendly person, and we had a very warm relationship. Michael Caine was a very shy person; I don’t remember an exchange of words between us.”

Buthelezi couldn’t recall when last he saw the film. “But a few years ago, I went to Washington to visit the U.S. State Department. I was having dinner at the home of an official and incredibly Zulu was showing on television.”

Nikki Rattray, who will be attending the re-premiere with her son Andrew, said her late husband “always saw the film in a positive light. David regarded it as a very good film.

“There’s been a great renewal of interest in the film,” she said, “and Cy Endfield’s daughter Suzannah decided to mark 50 years since its original release and set up this charity event.”

Film historian Sheldon Hall, who wrote A Bayonet With Some Guts Behind It on the making of Zulu, will be appearing at the gala to provide commentary on rarely-seen behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the film. “In some respects Zulu is a conventional adventure film,” said Hall. “But what makes it stand out from the genre is it treats the whole business of empire-building with healthy scepticism. By 1964 the British Empire was in the process of being dismantled, and the question continually being asked by the soldiers is, ‘What am I doing here?’”

Historian Ian Knight, author of Zulu Rising, said the impact of Zulu on popular awareness of the war was immense.

“Just a couple of weeks ago it was rated number two in a Channel 4 survey of the 100 best war films — not bad for a film that’s 50 years old.”

Knight, who also accompanies tour groups to the battlefields, said Zulu played a key role in boosting British tourism to KwaZulu-Natal. “It has undoubtedly made thousands of people not only want to know more, but visit the places where the history really happened.”

• Stephen.Coan@witness.co.za

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