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In 1879 South Africa, the administrators of the British Cape Colony have designs to eliminate the Zulus as a hindrance to their colonial economy. To that end, the British present King Cetshwayo with an impossible ultimatum to provoke a war they are sure they can win easily with their rifles and artillery against native spears. However, that war proves more difficult than the arrogant British commander, Lord Chelmsford, expects as his overburdened army fruitlessly searches for the elusive enemy. However, in the shadow of a hill called Isandlwana, the overconfident British army learns to its sorrow just how badly they have underestimated the tactical skill and might of the Zulu nation.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
There was some opposition to the casting of Burt Lancaster as Colonel Durnford, since, at sixty-four, he was much older than the character. See more »
Burt Lancaster plays Col. Anthony Durnford with a strong Irish accent. In reality, Durnford came from an Anglo-Irish family from the Ascendancy and would not have spoken with such an accent, he would have sounded like an upper class Englishman. See more »
Sir Henry Bartle Frere:
[proofreading aloud the ultimatum he has just drafted]
Cetshwayo's Zulu army to disband and the warriors permitted to return to their homes.
See more »
Opening credits prologue: One hundred years ago the British Colony of Natal in Southern Africa was surrounded by a vast and independent Zulu Kingdom.
In 1879, a battle took place that was forever to alter the course of Colonial history: ISANDHLWANA See more »
ZULU DAWN lives in the shadow of ZULU . That's hardly surprising because ZULU is the much better film , however unlike the 1964 film DAWN does stick to historical accuracy . The British are portrayed rightly as being overconfident , arrogant and foppish and it's this hubristic attitude that has lost wars when a superpower looks down its nose at the fighting capabilities of a backward third world nation . The British almost repeated the same mistakes during the Boar war , and the French and Americans done it in south east Asia , and the red army did it in Afghanistan.
DAWN does chronicle in great depth the mistakes made at the battle of Isandlwana: Chelmsford split his forces , the army didn't reinforce the perimeter , they were spread too thinly , and the method of supplying ammo was totally flawed , but it's this that spoils the film , there is too much emphasis of what happened to cause this defeat . Despite having an all star cast ( Two of which won Oscars and a couple more who have been nominated ) there's little character focus and you care little for the people involved . The film would have worked much better if it concentrated on just Chelmsford and Bob Hoskins gruff Sgt Major instead of the many characters who drift in and out of the picture
ZULU DAWN isn't a complete waste of time though , despite the long wait the battle scenes are handled well ( But not as good as ZULU ) and like ZULU it shows that a lot of brave men died on both sides
Update March 2008 . Recent historical evidence suggests that ZULU DAWN is fairly inaccurate especially where mass ranks , or the lack of them are concerned . But still knowing what historians knew in 1979 it's still a serious attempt to portray the battle accurately at the time
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