Screened as part of NZIFF 2003

Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony 2002

Directed by Lee Hirsch

South Africa / USA In English, Xhosa and Zulu with English subtitles
102 minutes 35mm



Clive Sacke
Ivan Leathers
Brand Jordaan


Johanna Demetrakas


Hugh Masekela
Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand)
Miriam Makeba
Vusi Mahlasela
Sibongile Khumalo


Sundance, Locarno 2002; Sydney 2003


Audience Award, Sundance 2002


Amandla! traces South Africa’s freedom struggle through its joyous, defiant music.

“As the South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim remarks in Amandla!, 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… 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, NY Times  

“The concept of a jubilant documentary about apartheid might seem counterintuitive, but Lee Hirsch’s remarkable musical Amandla! is just that… Hirsch’s film provides a rough chronology of apartheid, with the requisite film clips and talking heads, but it otherwise speaks the populist language of music videos and commercials, with rapid cutting, vibrant colors, striking compositions, and wall-to-wall music… In Amandla!, history doesn’t just come alive – it sings, dances, and issues a passionate plea for justice and equality.” — Nathan Rabin, AV Club