A
 
Web www.artsmart.co.za
A R T S M A R T
arts news from kwazulu-natal

film and television
www.artsmart.co.za
enquiries@artsmart.co.za
 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
 

NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

AMANDLA! A REVOLUTION IN FOUR-PART HARMONY (article first published : 2003-07-16)

An award-winning film documenting how music and song was used in South Africa's fight for freedom, Amandla! A Revolution in Four-part Harmony first seen locally at last year's Durban International Film Festival, covers half a century of our country's history and the music that played so important a role in the battle against the apartheid regime.

The film covers not only protest songs, angry a cappellas handed down from generation to generation as important tales, but also music used at rallies by hundreds of marchers, and songs sung in prison to inspire courage and/or to wave goodbye to doomed comrades. It contains plenty of disturbing archival footage, as well as interviews with activists, musicians and relatives of those killed because of the colour of their skin.

The winner of at least five international festival awards as best documentary or audience favourite, the picture is the work of American producer-director Lee Hirsch and producer Sherry Simpson. Their aim was to educate viewers on South African history from the time apartheid was introduced by the National Party-led government in 1948.

Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Abdullah Ibrahim and Vusi Mahlasela are among the former exiles lending their time, talent and memories to the project, their interviews being laced with archival footage and recording sessions.

"The thing that saved us was music," Ibrahim says.

Hirsch, who has directed music videos and began work on his documentary a decade ago, at the age of 20, makes song the most important presence in a story packed with memorable people and heart-wrenching events. His movie is divided by decade, beginning with forced removals of blacks from Sophiatown to Meadowlands 25km away, and the exhumation of the bones of Vuyisile Muni, a political songwriter and poet who was hung for his peaceable protests.

A key writer of freedom songs, Mini was executed in 1964 and walked to his death singing, insisting on music's power to outlive one voice. His example is Hirsch's touchstone and the film-maker showcases the 1998 transfer of Mini's remains from a potter's field to a proper resting place. It sets the film's tone of justice being served, especially when a white military trumpeter then plays a dirge at the songwriter's funeral.

Amandla! A Revolution in Four-part Harmony traces the development of the freedom movement song by song, from the melancholy swing of ballads of displacement like Meadowlands; through the defiant dignity of Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika, the "people's national anthem"; and on to the more militaristic music that followed the 1976 Soweto uprising. Protests got ugly with that incident. But throughout the protests, musicians gave people a chance to express their outrage and feelings.

In a favourite early song, comes the refrain: "my only sin is that I'm black". The songs' own biographies interweave with those of South African freedom fighters, with icons such as Makeba, Masekela and Ibrahim entering into dialogue with lesser-known activists and artists.

One American reviewer has stated that the the film's energy peaks with footage of the toyi-toyi, "the marching dance the ANC's military wing used during protests in the 1980s, which resembles a massive moshpit turned toward a purpose more urgent than most punks could comprehend". Rating: 7/10 Billy Suter.




 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
a co-production by caroline smart services and .durbanet. site credits
copyright © subsists in this page. all rights reserved. [ edit ] copyright details  artsmart