Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony

Ingratiating documentary about the protest songs that kept the dream alive for black South Africans as they slowly but successfully managed to topple the oppressive Apartheid regime. The music is great, of course, but director Hirsch spends too much time on the talking heads (all African musicians who were very active in the cause – thankfully, there are no white celebrities like Paul Simon putting in their token two cents), and I started wishing I could watch one of these wonderful performers just sing.

The film's best moments are, in fact, two scenes inside a recording studio where the camera simply catches a singer belting out a soulful, moving tune. The entire film could have been this, and it would have been just as effective. Instead we get the usual history lessons.

This is also one of those "MTV-style" documentaries: lots of flashy cuts and camera work, some restaged scenes, and saturated colors. Some purists find docs like this to be a bit phony; "all style and no substance", they cry. Others say hey, you're not going to reach a wide audience if your doc is dry and academic. My feelings lie somewhere in the middle. Amandla! would have felt more honest if it weren't so caught up in its own slickness, but it still teaches those of us who didn't know much about the anti-Apartheid struggle.