Oscar-winning actor Sir Michael Caine has panned an effort by a UK government program to label the 1964 film Zulu as “extremist” because it shows the victory of British soldiers against an African army in South Africa.
The film depicts the Battle of Rorke’s Drift in 1879, an important British victory in a campaign against Zulu warriors in South Africa. The Zulus had just defeated the British at the Battle of Isandlwana — one of the first victories of an indigenous army against a European force.
The film also portrays the Zulus as the heroes in the end, noting that they were merciful and respectful warriors.
A widely-criticized British government project called Prevent, which aims to stop extremism, included the film Zulu on a list “as a ‘key text’ for ‘white nationalists’ and ‘supremacists’,” the UK Daily Mail noted.
Caine, 90, responded via the UK Spectator: “‘That is the biggest load of bullshit I have ever heard.”
Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, a Zulu figure who became a controversial anti-apartheid leader, also said (via the Daily Mail):
‘Even if the past is uncomfortable, and perhaps especially when the past is uncomfortable, it needs to be examined and unpacked rather than hidden away. Of course race is a central theme in the film’, he previously told The Times.
‘Whenever that past is remembered it should always be a celebration of our ongoing fight, and victory, against division. That is worth thinking about, as that is the present-day context of the film Zulu.’
Though the portrayal of British colonial forces as heroes would be controversial by today’s standards — and even the emerging standards of the postcolonial era of the 1960s — the series of battles led to mutual respect between the British and the Zulu kingdom.
(In an odd coincidence, the Battle of Isandlawana occurred during a total solar eclipse. Unlike an ancient battle between the Medians and Lydians, the eclipse did not stop the Zulus and British from continuing their fight).
During the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, the Johnny Clegg song “Impi,” celebrating the Battle of Isandlwana, became a pop hit and was banned from radio airplay by the white minority government.
Today, in post-apartheid South Africa, it has been embraced by rugby fans — especially white fans — as the entrance song for the national team, the Springboks, who have embraced Zulu culture as a symbol of courage and strength.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.
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