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Film storyboards for ‘Zulu’ discovered
22 Jan 2010 Stephen Coan

A PREVIOUSLY unknown storyboard for a sequence from the film Zulu has come to light and a poster version is available on a newly created website.

Zulu was shot on location in the Royal Natal National Park in the Drakensberg in 1963. The film was a recreation of the defence of the mission station at Rorke’s Drift that took place on January 22-23, 1879, where, following the overwhelming Zulu victory at Isandlwana, a small number of British troops held out against a superior Zulu force. More Victoria Crosses, the highest British award for bravery, were awarded to a single regiment for this action — 11 in all — than for any other in British military history.

The film starred Stanley Baker, Michael Caine, Jack Hawkins and featured MangoSuthu Buthelezi as King Cetshwayo kaMpande. Directed by Cy Endfield, Zulu went on to become a highly popular and successful film, while frequent airings on British television have seeded interest in the war down the generations — something that has greatly benefited the tourism industry in this part of the world.

For the film, the Rorke’s Drift mission station was constructed on the banks of the Thukela River close to where the entrance to the Tendele camp is today. Although a long way from the site of the actual battle, the Amphitheatre provided a spectacular backdrop.

The Natal Parks Board (now KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife) was paid R1 500 for the use of the location and an undertaking was made by the film-makers that after the filming was complete everything would be removed. Shooting began at the end of March and ran through to the end of June.

The Zulu storyboard that has come to light was created for the sequence when Zulu warriors attack the roof of the hospital and Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead (played by Caine) leads a counterattack.

Storyboards consist of small drawings depicting individual shots in a sequence. They assist the director and crew in setting up and filming the shots, and can vary from crude sketches to accomplished works of art.

The discovery of these Zulu storyboard sketches is quite a find. Their existence was unknown even to Sheldon Hall, author of the authoritative book on the making of the film, Some Guts with a Bayonet Behind It. “I had always assumed that no storyboards — other than production design sketches — had been created for the film, but the recent discovery of these drawings close to the location site proves me wrong,” says Hall.

“They relate to one sequence only — the fighting on the hospital roof — and appear to be authentic. I would guess they were done by the art director, Ernest Archer, or possibly Cy Endfield.”

A poster version of the storyboard is offered for sale on www.zulufilmstore. com, a new website devoted to the sale of Zulu memorabilia created by Henry Coleman.

The site offers a small selection of original merchandise from Zulu for sale, as well as the specially created poster which reproduces the storyboard sketches. “They consist of 30 individual panels, all about postcard size or less, and have been hand drawn in pen and watercolours,” says Coleman

“They were discovered by my brother on his travels around South Africa last year. He found and purchased them privately in [kwaZulu-] Natal and presented them to me last year on a trip to the UK, knowing my love of the film.”

“The originals are now in my personal Zulu film memorabilia collection, but they are too interesting not to let others have a copy, hence the reason I created the unique storyboard poster available on my website.”