In 1879, 150 British soldiers fought 4,000 Zulus at Rourke’s Drift.
When it was over, there were 15 British dead and 350 Zulus dead.
If the Zulus had carried on fighting they would have won, but instead they left.
In 1964, Cy Enfield directed a film about it, called Zulu, it was regarded as a classic.
Until June this year.
In Folkestone it was due to be shown as a charity event for the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Families Association (SSAFA).
But 28 Folkestone residents wrote to the mayor demanding it be banned.
Their letter said: “We believe the choice of the film Zulu, with its inaccurate portrayal of historical events and its distortions and racist overtones, could have a negative effect on relationships within the changing and richly diverse communities here in Folkestone.”
So, a few people objected on everyone’s behalf.
But surely, if anyone was going to be offended it would be the people depicted in the film.
It would be Zulus.
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi is the leader of the Zulu people.
He was the Minister for Home Affairs in Nelson Mandela’s government.
His great Grandfather, King Cetshwayo KaMapande, was the man who led the attack on the British soldiers at Rourke’s Drift.
The resemblance was so strong Prince Buthelezi played him in the film.
He said: “What made the experience unique was that, at the height of apartheid, it was a community of both black and white where everyone was respected and everyone treated one another as equals.
There was no fuss about race, no discrimination, no bigotry.
It was simply a community of people working together to recreate a part of history that held tremendous meaning for all of them.
Thousands upon thousands of Zulu men found themselves re-enacting the deeds and glories of our own grandfathers.”
Prince Buthelezi was asked if he found it ironic that the film ended up glorifying Britain’s colonial conquest?
He said: “That’s an interpretation of the film I don’t agree with.
J see the film as part of our history. It portrays bravery on both sides, Zulu and British.”
He was asked if he thought there was a risk of perpetuating narrow stereotypes about what Africans are, and how they behave.
He said: “This film is about a specific people in a specific country at a specific time.
So I don’t think there’s a danger of that.
Anyway, what’s wrong with portraying an aspect of African culture? I see no problem.
But something more emerges from the film.
The deep respect that develops between the warring armies, and the nobility of King Cetshwayo’s warriors as they salute the enemy, demanded a different way of thinking from the average viewer at the time of the film’s release.
Indeed it remains a film that demands a thoughtful response.”
So, the leader of the Zulu people says the film demands a thoughtful response.
More thoughtful perhaps than just “I don’t like it, ban it”.
Interestingly, in South Africa black people weren’t allowed to see the film.
The government believed it would encourage violence against whites.
And in Folkestone, the writers of that letter believe nobody should be allowed to see it.
It’s similar to advertising, where a few people automatically assume that absolutely everyone reacts exactly like them.
They take it for granted that they think like all of us, that their reactions are universal.
They are therefore the voice of all people everywhere.
Which makes them useless as judges of advertising.
As Mark Ritson said “The first rule of marketing is that you are not the market”.