Amandla!: A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This internationally acclaimed film is the intense and triumphant story of how music kept alive the revolution against the cruelty of apartheid for decades in South Africa. The music was vital, constantly creative, changing and life-sustaining for millions as they struggled against a monster machine.
The film starts with the exhuming of the body of murdered musician, Vuyisile Mini, under the eyes of his family who keep his memory alive with his songs.
Returned exiles Mariam Makeba and Hugh Masekela talk about how music helped the pain of exile, those in camps in the frontline states send back more militant forms of expression, like toyi-toyi that drove the authorities crazy – and of course, they did not understand the political contents because they never learned any local languages. Song was an organizer for those who continued the struggle at home like Dolly Rathebe and Sophie Mgcina. These wonderful women reminisce outside their township home and recall that “the gift of singing gave us power”. Music may have helped this almost bloodless revolution and prevent the destruction of the country as one musician says. But the enormous capacity for forgiveness in the hearts of the South African people also deserves credit. See the film “A Long Night’s Journey into Day” after you have seen Amandla and witness this great willingness to forgive by ordinary people who suffered and lost family in the decades of oppression.
The film ends with the words of Thandi Modesse, now a powerful person in the government. She says that after torture, imprisonment and giving birth in jail, nothing can scare her or silence her now.
The film moved and inspired me, but I also became very angry. Both nights I saw it at a full house. I looked around at the older people there and saw only two that I recognized from the anti-apartheid movement here. I hope the younger audience will be more moved to activism after seeing it. The other reason I became angry is that I have met a new generation of South African activists, now fighting for their commons, their reclaimed homeland, against a government that is selling out to globalization and privatization; they say they did not win against apartheid in order to lose to new colonialism. As the pianist Abdoullah Ibrahim says: One song ends, another song begins.
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