Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony (2003)

Directed by Lee Hirsch
Produced by Sherry Simpson and Lee Hirsch
Featuring Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Abdullah Ibrahim, Vusi Mahlasela, and Sibongile Khumalo

Amandla image

From ‘The Marseillaise’ to ‘We Shall Overcome,’ there has probably never been a revolution that did not use songs to give voice to its aspirations or rally the morale of its adherents. As the South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim remarks in ‘Amandla!,’ a documentary directed by Lee Hirsch that opens in Manhattan today, the toppling of apartheid may be a special case, the first revolution ever to be conducted ‘in four-part harmony.’ Mr. Ibrahim’s observation, which supplies this restless, moving film with its subtitle, points to the central role that music — in the streets, on records, in prison and in exile — played in black South Africa’s long struggle for liberation from white domination. Threading together interviews and archival clips with a percolating soundtrack, Mr. Hirsch makes the case that musical expression was central to the project of self-determination. Every chapter in the often brutal, ultimately triumphant saga that stretches from 1948 (the year the right-wing National Party came to power and began to institute its infamous policy of racial separation) to 1994 (the year of Nelson Mandela’s victory in the first election open to all of the country’s citizens) is accompanied by songs of defiance, mourning, pride and despair. ’Amandla’ is the Xhosa word for power, and the film certainly lives up to its name.
– A.O. Scott, New York Times (February 23, 2003)

Thursday December 4
Rosenthal 230

Shown as part of the Representations of South Africa film series

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