Amandla! A Revolution In Four Part Harmony [DVD]
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The story of South African freedom music and the central role is played against apartheid.
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
- Dave Matthews interview
- Q&A with director, producer, and Vusi Mahlasela
- Vusi at Joe's Pub
- Production notes
- 45 minutes of deleted scenes and musical performances, including full version of "Coal Train (Stimela)" by Hugh Maskela
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Top Customer Reviews
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!
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. It's hard to describe that scene in words, but its wonderfully shot and the two matriarchs burst into spontaneous laughter at the memory, and yet the viewer is never allowed to forget the pain of the condescension and humiliation they suffered. Their laughter, like their song, is a slap, even today to those who persecuted them.
I would also recommend buying the Amandla! CD along with this. It contains the full version of many of the songs featured in the documentary including the seminal 'Beware Verwoerd' which runs like an anthem through the anti-apartheid struggle and a fantastic version of Mahlasela's 'When You Come Back' sung, in the movie, in tribute to Vusiliye Mini.
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