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Amandla!: A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony

49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

AMANDLA: A REVOLUTION IN FOUR-PART HISTORY tells the story of black South African freedom music and the central role it played 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. Named for the Xhosa word "power," AMANDLA lives up to its title, telling an uplifting story of human courage, resolve and triumph.

The stunning documentary Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony tells the story of protest music in South Africa--but as it does so, it tells the story of the struggle against apartheid itself, for the music and the revolution are inseparable. Through archival footage and interviews with musicians, freedom fighters, and even members of the former government police, Amandla! creates a vivid and powerful portrait of how music was crucial not only to communicating a political message beyond words, but also to the resistance itself--how songs bonded communities, buoyed resistance in the face of bullets and tear gas, and sowed fear in the ruling elite. Part history, part musical exploration, part sheer force of life, Amandla! captures both the sorrow and the triumph of life in South Africa from the 1950s to 1990, when Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress came into power. --Bret Fetzer

Special Features

  • Dave Matthews interview
  • Q&A with director, producer, and Vusi Mahlasela
  • Vusi at Joe's Pub
  • Production notes
  • Sing-along
  • 45 minutes of deleted scenes and musical performances, including full version of "Coal Train (Stimela)" by Hugh Maskela

Product Details

  • Actors: Duma Ka Ndlovu, Vusi Mahlasela, Walter Cronkite, F.W. de Klerk, Abdullah Ibrahim
  • Directors: Lee Hirsch
  • Writers: Lee Hirsch
  • Producers: Lee Hirsch, Desireé Markgraaff, Johnathan Dorfman, Sherry Simpson, Temple Fennell
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Lions Gate
  • DVD Release Date: October 21, 2003
  • Run Time: 108 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000C2IWO
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,048 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Amandla!: A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Andre M. on November 10, 2004
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is an excellent history of the role of music in the anti-aparthied struggle of S/A. Familiar greats like Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masakela are covered as well as interesting lost history such as the tale of Vuyisile Mini (who was hanged in 1964 for fight-the power songs such as "Beware Voeword.").

For the most part, these are not "We Shall Overcome" or "Kum by Ya" type of anthems (though that's cool in it's place). This is hardcore, fight-the power, we ain't gonna take it type of music. Sibongile Kumalo's song about the struggle near the end of the film will bring tears to your eyes-first for the beauty of her voice and THEN when you read the translation! The sequences of the Toyi-toyi (the war dance of S/A) are inspirational and revealing, as is this DVD itself.

Moving scenes abound. A picture is shown of a beautiful S/A teenager sitting prettily on a sofa, then the camera pulls back to reveal that she has a machine gun next to her. One young lady, crying at the funeral of a comrade in the midst of the struggle cries, "I wish I were a dog! I wish I were cattle grazing in the grass!" If you can watch scenes like that with a dry eye then something is WRONG with you!

We also have some extra-rare footage of the young Nelson Mandela (in 1961, prior to his imprisonment) telling of his views on the choice of violence or nonviolence. There is also footage of his sentancing in 1964 and his eventual release. The scenes of his dancing in celebration are a sight to behold!

But enough of this. Get it and see and hear the power that music has over the human spirit! I'd give it ten stars!
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Anya K on September 29, 2003
Format: DVD
Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony, was directed by Lee Hirsch, who sold all his possessions and dropped out of college to make the film. That's the level of commitment and passion exhibited by the creators, but it has nothing on the people starring in this documentary, which focuses on the role music and dance played in the downfall of the Apartheid system in South Africa. I cried at the atrocities committed by the government, and nearly danced for joy myself near the end when Nelson Mandela was shown finally released from prison. The most inspiring aspect of the music in this film is that despite the suffering, there isn't a single "sad" song to be found. The soundtrack is unbelievable, featuring performances and interviews by dynamic and influential artists/activists such as Miriam Makeba, Vusi Mahlasela, Abdullah Ibrahim, and Hugh Masekela.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A. Datta on November 7, 2004
Format: DVD
We've all heard cliches about the power of music but this is an amazingly moving film about the real power of music. The movie, shot on a handycam by Lee Hirsch travels through five decades of music and activism in South Africa's history. By looking at the key songs and the men associated with each phase of the struggle, Hirsch does a great job of bringing to life the sheer horror and brutality of everyday life under apartheid. But he also manages to capture the hopes of the revolutionaries through a series of moving and poignant interviews. What struck me about many of the interviews was how spontaneously these activists would break into song to recount their experience. By providing minimal commentary and by letting the songs and men who sang them do the talking, Hirsch has created a masterpiece.

Apart from chronicling the history of the movement, Hirsch also chronicles the lives of many of the activists that the world has forgotten today. The movie opens with the exhumation of Mini's grave to the soulful voice of Vusi Mahlasela. One by one, Hirsch also exhumes heroes and heroines of South Africa's past, particularly musicians, who live only through their songs, and tries to give them their place in the anti-apartheid struggle.

It is also fascinating that the colour of his skin allows Hirsch to shoot some fascinating footage including those of modern white South Africans nostalgic for an earlier age. Hirsch also allows a deft touch of humour to pervade his work, subtly, without ever being disrespectful to his subjects. One of my favourite scenes is where Rathebe recounts how they would sing revolutionary songs and the whites would look at them and praise them for their melody not realising what the actual lyrics were.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Vynnette A. Frederick on November 14, 2003
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I am a black West Indian who had been fortunate enough to see this documentary before I bought the is fantastic and moving and emotional and awe inspiring! I looked at it thorugh a veil of tears! Every individual alive regardless of race needs to purchase this DVD and take a good long repeated look at this documentary which chronicles the resilience of the human spirit....I felt inspired to stand on principle and proud to be alive after looking at the documentary. It was REAL...Nothing put on for the cameras...the pride the people felt for their songs and for their leaders and the strength to keep up the fight was palpable throughout...Hugh Masakela, Myriam Makeba and the other performers who faced racism and hatred everyday still loved their country and that was obvious throughout...from the travesty that was Aparthied we now fortunately have a glimpse into one aspect of what it took to keep South African victims of apartheid motivated to fight the power! AMANDLA!
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