When Los Angeles-based film director Joe Litzinger heard about a Zulu prince coming to Butte, America, for the summer, he knew “this story is too good to be true.”
Litzinger heard about this unusual event through friends he made in the Mining City. He had come to know the Clark and Dark Show on KBMF 102.5. Litzinger, executive producer of a documentary media producing company based out of L.A., got on a plane and came to Butte. He found the town fascinating. He found the people fascinating. And once he met Prince Sbo and his two colleagues Nkokhelo Msomi and Mokai Malope, Litzinger found them fascinating as well.
So for a week, a cameraman — Eric Michael Schrader — followed the Zulus' every move. Litzinger hired a South African crew to film the Zulus before they left their native land in Nongoma, South Africa. Litzinger and Schrader visited Butte before the Zulus arrival to get plenty of footage of Butte. For an hour-and-20-minute documentary, they shot 1,000 hours of footage.
And they are coming back for more. The filmmakers intend to return during Butte’s festival time to get even more film of the Zulus making their way around Butte, America.
Schrader and Litzinger made sure they were at the Bert Mooney Airport when Prince Sbo, Mokai, and Nkokhelo came walking off the plane in African garb, carrying a shield, and touched snow for the first time in their lives.
“This is one of the most interesting stories I’ve ever heard,” Litzinger told The Montana Standard last week. “The hard part is going to be what not to include.”
Schrader said that following the Zulus around Butte, America, for a week felt like he was “hanging with the Beatles.”
“Everyone on the street, people stop and shout hello,” Schrader said.
The project is a “labor of love” for Interesting Human Media. Schrader and Litzinger both have day jobs. Schrader is an editor for BBC Worldwide, and Litzinger is executive producer for National Geographic TV.
Litzinger said they got so much footage because he was equally “blown away” by Butte.
“I fell in love with the town,” he said.
Schrader calls filming in Butte a filmmaker’s dream. He cited filming out of the back of a Dodge pickup truck without a permit – something he would not likely get away with in Tinsel Town.
Meanwhile, the prince, Mokai, and Nkekhelo seemed to take having a camera watch their every move in stride.
A rough cut of the film with the working title “Untitled Zulu Nation/Butte, Montana, Project” should be complete by early next year, Litzinger said. The documentary will then make the film festival rounds before a theatrical distribution and Netflix release sometime next year.