StoryThe power of song to communicate, motivate, console, unite and, ultimately, beget change: that ideal, gloriously realized, lies at the heart of director Lee Hirsch's inspiring feature film documentary Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony. Winner of the Audience Award and Freedom of Expression Award at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, Amandla! tells the story of black South African freedom music and reveals the central role it played in the long battle against apartheid. The first film to specifically consider the music that sustained and galvanized black South Africans for more than 40 years, Amandla!'s focus is on the struggle's spiritual dimension, as articulated and embodied in song. It is unlike any other film yet made on the subject of apartheid, and an electrically expressive portrait of South African life then and now.
In form as well as content, Amandla! breaks new ground. Beginning with its dynamic opening title sequence, Amandla! harnesses the visual and sonic power of cinema to create a powerfully emotional viewing experience. Vivid, color-drenched cinematography flows like song, complementing an innovative narrative that combines original footage, breathtaking musical numbers, archive and haunting reenactments to celebrate the resilience of the human spirit throughout the decades-long struggle for freedom in South Africa. Nine years in the making, Amandla! was shot in South Africa and features interviews with a diverse range of individuals, who candidly share their experiences of struggle and song. The film brings dozens of freedom songs to the screen, drawing upon original recordings and thrilling, sometimes impromptu live performances by celebrated South African musicians and nonprofessionals alike. Threaded throughout the film, these rich and beautiful anthems take viewers on an extraordinary journey through the spiritual and physical reality of life under apartheid.
Amandla! unearths the story of an extraordinary unsung hero, composer and activist Vuyisile Mini. A courageous political leader as well as a gifted songwriter and poet, Mini quickly realized the expressive potency of song after the apartheid government came to power in 1948, depriving black South Africans of their most basic rights as citizens. Mini gave voice and hope to a powerless people with anthems like 'Beware Verwoerd,' in which an infectious melody carries Xhosa lyrics that warn the architect of apartheid, Hendrik Verwoerd, that his day of reckoning will come.
To tell the story of this music, Amandla! turns to the people of South Africa itself. Among those featured in intimate interviews are the renowned musicians who helped expose the suffering of black South Africa to the world, including trumpeter Hugh Masekela, singer Miriam Makeba, pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, singer/songwriter Vusi Mahlasela and singer Sibongile Khumalo. There are several generations of South Africans who experienced the struggle on the ground, a group that ranges from actress/singer Sophie Mgcina to freedom fighter (now Chief Director, West and Central Africa in the government's Department of Foreign Affairs) Lindiwe Zulu and activist/music producer Sifiso Ntuli. One of the film's most moving stories comes from current Parliament member Thandi Modise, who describes her ordeal as a political prisoner under apartheid. Tortured despite her advanced pregnancy, Modise was abandoned to her dank cell after her water broke during a brutal interrogation. On the verge of suicide, she mustered the will to live and fight on � she began to sing.
In addition to the songs themselves, Amandla! retrieves a stunning bounty of archive footage, some of it never before seen. Culled from a variety of sources, the footage describes the brutal arc of apartheid: the forced removals of black South Africans to wretched, government-built townships; the institution of onerous pass laws; and the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela. As the white government grew increasingly repressive and violent in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, freedom songs responded, urging the fight on. A new combination of dance and song, the toyi-toyi, became a potent weapon in taking on the police.
In 1994, the struggle reached its triumphant climax with the election of Nelson Mandela as South Africa's first democratically chosen president. Amandla! concludes on a joyously harmonic note with the 'Siyanqoba (Victory)' rally, held in 1995 just prior to the government's first democratic local elections, the final step in the process of democratic transformation. Yet the story of freedom songs does not end there; as Amandla! makes clear, the music remains part of the fabric of the new South Africa. The freedom songs that were the strongest voice of an oppressed people now serve to express the very soul of their struggle to a post-apartheid generation. Named for the Xhosa word for 'power,' Amandla! lives up to its title, telling an uplifting story of human courage, resolve and triumph.
|Duma Ka Ndlovu|