Sunday 2 February 2014

Movie magic - not actually a cliché

It's 50 years since the movie Zulu was made, starring a youthful, and very blond, Michael Caine early in his career. Before we go any further, please don't think that I was old enough to remember this, let alone actually see the movie at the cinema. No, no, I'm much too young for that. My acquaintance with the film began much later, when I was living in England through the 80s. It was a Christmas tradition then for the BBC to show it in the afternoon, when everyone was almost comatose after their big dinners. So for me it's associated with feeling bloated and slightly the worse for wear, with the smell of Christmas trees and with too-warm living rooms whose windows framed uninviting grey skies and bare trees. Just seeing the opening credits now would bring all that flooding back.

It could hardly be more different from my actual experience of Zululand last year, or from my encounter with this very jolly man outside DumaZulu Village, where we went for lunchtime toasted sandwiches after our unexpectedly exciting cheetah encounter at nearby Emdoneni. We didn't see much of the village, our focus being on other things, but we met this guy at the gate, officially posing for photos for 10 rand each, but actually not so much bothered about collecting the money.

The village is near Hluhluwe, which is a name I'm proud to be able to pronounce correctly (kind of a double lishp at the start) although there was no way I could manage anything with a click in it. Shamefully (but mostly because I was travelling with English-speaking South Africans) I didn't learn any Zulu apart from the useful yebo (yes, hello, ok). I was impressed to learn though that the movie The Lion King has been fully translated into Zulu, songs and all (you thought Hakuna Matata etc was in Zulu already? Nup. Swahili). They use it to teach children the concept of ecology, the environment, conservation... well, actually, The Circle of Life puts it most neatly. It's an effective and entertaining way to get them to understand that interfering with the wildlife will have wide consequences, and to persuade them to value it for itself, and not as a resource to exploit - by informing poachers of the whereabouts of rhino, for instance. Movies, eh. So much more than just entertainment.

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