Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony is a soul-stirring film that uses exclusive interviews and rare, never-before-seen film footage to document the vital role that music played in the nearly half-century struggle against apartheid in South Africa. This inspirational documentary, which took nine years to make, is a testimony to the power of song, and its ability to fuel the struggle for freedom.
Amandla! weaves together many previously unrecorded songs of liberation - sung anew by men and women who participated in the campaign - into a fabric that also includes newsreel footage of historic speeches and organized rallies. Interpersed with the music are interviews with black and white South African dissidents, and numerous renowned musicians, including former exiles Miriam Makeba, Huga Masekela and Abdullah Ibrahim.
In the wake of the bloody confrontations and imprisonment that followed that decree, most notably the 1976 Soweto riots and massacres, the strength of apartheid's grip could be measured in the urgency of the music. Amandla! which means power in the Xhosa language is filled with songs that were so dynamic, persuasive and inspirational that they became anthems for the movement, and as a result, were banned by the government, along with many other popular artists.
Although apartheid ended more than a decade ago, memories of brutality and tragedy are never far from the minds of the people interviewed in Amandla! With Mandela's release from captivity and election to the nation's presidency, South African musicians regained their voice. Amandla! shows how modern-day artists have drawn from their troubled history to create new music of freedom and equality. During production, director Lee Hirsch and producer Sherry Simpson compiled hundres of hours of these songs.
"No one else has told this part of the story. The government took everything away from people but it couldn't stop them from singing," says Hirsch. Adds Simpson, "Music has been such a powerful force in creating historical social change and South Africa offers the quintessential example of this." Amandla!