Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony (2002)

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Released 24-Aug-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Director And Producer
Featurette-Q &A With Director, Producer And Vusi Mahlasela
Featurette-Vusi Mahlasela Live At Joe's Pub
Production Notes
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Standing In The Shadows Of Motown, Russian Ark, Together
Trailer-Molokai, Swing
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 98:53 (Case: 108)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (68:24) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Lee Hirsch

Madman Entertainment
Starring Walter Cronkite
F.W. de Klerk
Abdullah Ibrahim
Jesse Jackson
Duma Ka Ndlovu
Ronnie Kasrils
Sibongile Khumalo
Vusi Mahlasela
Miriam Makeba
Nelson Mandela
Winnie Mandela
Hugh Masekela
Thandi Modise
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.75:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.75:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     On February 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from the prison on Robben Island, South Africa, to worldwide joy and acclaim. For 22 years, he had languished in isolation from his people and his cause, but the struggle of black South Africa had its genesis long before, culminating in the brutal policies of Apartheid, delivered by the grandfatherly-looking Hendrik Verwoerd, Minister of Native Affairs, who reassured the local and international community that his policies were about "good neighbourliness," and that, aside from "a few whippings," all in South Africa was in harmony and balance.

      Amandla! A Revolution In Four-Part Harmony, is a film that examines how song was a crucial element in galvanising and sustaining the black South African population during their painful struggle against unspeakable oppression. Part documentary, part lamentation, part celebration, this film took more than a decade for director Lee Hirsch to create, resulting in a tribute and love song to a people who have suffered so deeply yet remained so dignified and resolute. Amandla! looks for the protest songs that united the people, and found those who had sung them. Interspersed with archive footage from those dark times are interviews with leading performers and frontliners in the protests whose insights and memories range from cheeky reminiscences to almost overwhelming grief at the countless losses and violence enacted upon them.

      There is an overriding sense of dignity and quiet strength in this film, examining as it does the extraordinary stamina that it took to continue to resist oppression. It is not a documentary in the normal sense of the word, and if you would prefer more historical background to the material, an excellent site about Mandela and his struggles can be found by clicking here. Instead, this is a celebration - an exaltation of song and spirit that is almost overwhelmingly moving. This is an intensely spiritual film, showing that the political walls of Jericho are still vulnerable to the spirit of a people expressed in music.

      See this film:

Because it is a celebration.

Because it is a love letter to a nation.

Because it shows how song reveals spirit.

Because it has some of the best music you're likely to hear for a while.

Because this should never have happened.

      And for lucky Melbournians, there is an Amandla! concert coming up on the 13th of June, 2004. Details about the Amandla Soweto Concert can be found here.

      I feel very fortunate to have seen this film. I found it a very profound, moving and empowering experience, and I highly recommend it.

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Transfer Quality


     The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.75:1, 16x9 enhanced.

     It is awkward making comments on the technical aspects of this film, because there is such a mix of archival footage of variable quality within its structure. The new vision is generally quite acceptable with some grain issues, but not to distracting levels. Shadow detail blocks up occasionally, and some of the filmed footage looks somewhat soft, but I never found it offensive.

     The colour rendition of the filmed footage was very rich indeed, with warm and intense colours evident throughout. Skin tones were normally very well transferred and provided no distractions.

     There is some very mild motion blur and there is aliasing present, but with so much archival footage, one quickly learns to accept these anomalies as part of the character of the film. Generally speaking, I found the original footage quite clean and artefact free. Subtitles, when they appeared, were burnt into the image. Their inclusion was a little haphazard to my mind, appearing sometimes when they didn't seem necessary, and noticeably absent during some of the songs, when their inclusion would have been welcomed. However, those that did appear were clean and clear.

     This is an RSDL disc, with the layer change at 68:24 where it presents no major problems.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     There are three audio tracks on this DVD - English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Digital 2.0 and English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0. I listened predominantly to the 5.1 presentation.

     The sound is fortunately very good, and bears a ramp-up of the speakers without too much problem at all. There were also no problems with audio sync.

     The music is the unabashed star of this production and it is nothing short of magnificent. Huge choral epics and simple solo ditties all take their moment of prominence, weaving themselves into a tapestry as rich and bold as a tribal blanket. Absolutely glorious.

     The surround sound is fortunately up to the task, and takes full advantage of each speaker. There is a true sense of being immersed in the aural experience, which is utterly appropriate in a film that celebrates music.

     There was appropriate use of subwoofer that lent a bassy texture to the soundscape.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



     The menu is static and has theme music looped.


     A very revealing and enjoyable commentary is provided by Director Lee Hirsch and Producer Sherry Simpson. It is an interesting discussion about the trials and tribulations of making this decade long labour of love.

Q & A (20:31):

     Lee Hirsch and Sherry Simpson are joined by Vusi Mahlasela in this interview session. It is a warm and witty love fest, and the magnificent Mahlasela shines in this feature. One word of warning though, seasick pills may be required to endure the quick pans of this single camera edit!

Vusi Mahlasela Live at Joe's Pub (13:38):

      A beautiful mini concert featuring this extraordinary poet/musician. Wonderful viewing.

Amandla! Production Notes:

      Thoughts and reminiscences of the Editor Johanna Demetrakas, Producer Sherry Simpson, and Director Lee Hirsch.


Madman Trailers 

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The R4 Version Misses Out On:

      I haven't seen these extras so I can't comment on their necessity, but certainly, this PAL presentation is very good, given the constraints of the source material.


     Uplifting, confronting and exultant, this is a worthy winner of the Audience and Jury Awards at the Sundance Film Festival (2002) and the Sydney Film Festival's Critics' Prize (2003). A joy to watch, a privilege to experience, this film comes highly recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Mirella Roche-Parker (read my bio)
Saturday, June 19, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDSinger SGD-001, using S-Video output
DisplayTeac 76cm Widescreen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTeac 5.1 integrated system
SpeakersTeac 5.1 integrated system

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Relased version even better... - Stewart