“Amandla,” directed and written by Nerina De Jager, is a film that narrates the story of two brothers and their lives in South Africa in the late 80s. During the late 80s, a number of changes were taking place, from lifting the ban on black liberation parties to the release of political prisoners. ‘Amandla’ highlights the crushing economic conditions that were prevalent in the country, particularly the condition of the colored race. Along with it, the hate that was still dominant as well as prominent among several white South Africans is also depicted in the film. “Amandla,” which means “power” in the Nguni language, thematically explores the power required to endure the struggles and misfortunes of the South African black community.
‘Amandla’ Plot Summary: The Past Of The Two Brothers
Impi and Nkosana, the two brothers, hunted for birds on the farm they worked on. Nkosana’s elder brother, Impi, advised him to always kill his prey instead of letting the bird go through the pain of slow death. The family stayed on the farm of Mr. Jakob, who provided them with employment. The father was grateful to Mr. Jakob for saving his family when they left KwaZulu and were headed to work in the mines.
On Impi’s birthday, his father gifted him a leather sachet to keep his money in. Meanwhile, the mother advised her boys to not mention Impi’s birthday to anyone at the farm, as the day also marked the white man’s victory over the Zulu warriors. Since the family belonged to the same clan, they feared harm if the Whites learned about Impi’s birthday.
Several white people joined the party at the farm to celebrate the day. Mr. Jakob asked Impi and Nkosana to stay away from the party as a way to protect them from any hate. While the brothers stayed away, a few racist white men found them and started throwing cow dung on their faces. They tried to establish their supremacy, and the boys were an easy target. The gradual loss of control over the fate of the black community in South Africa troubled the whites, leading to such hateful acts.
After this incident, Elizabeth, the daughter of Mr. Jakob, sought forgiveness from Impi. She gave him money to fulfill his dream of traveling to KwaZulu. Elizabeth and Impi were fond of each other. Even though Impi knew their relationship was impossible in the hostile environment, he planted a kiss on Elizabeth’s lips, and she reciprocated her love. Sadly, they never met again after this incident. When Nkosana watched his brother kiss Elizabeth from a distance, he laughed. The white men saw him laugh and interrogated the reason for it, fearing for his life. Nkosana confessed that Impi was kissing Elizabeth. The men decided to not attack in broad daylight but rather at night. The attack compelled Impi and Nkosana to run away from their land and thus began a conflicting journey of these two brother which the film, ‘Amandla’ further explores.
Why Did Impi Run Away With Nkosana?
As the family went to bed, the father could see torchlights approaching. He warned his wife to wake up their sons. Impi and Nkosana were getting ready to leave if the situation worsened. As the conversation between their father and the men got heated, they knew that flight would be their only option to stay alive. As the father was shot amidst the argument, the mother asked them to run away from the farm. Impi and Nkosana ran away and hid for safety. They watched the men murder their mother, and the house was set on fire.
With the bit of money he had in his satchel, Impi decided to travel to Isando. They had heard from their mother that more people from their community lived in Isando. They knew that in Isando, they would not have to face the white man’s torture. The brothers roamed the streets of Isando looking for work but could not find any. Poverty was all around them. People struggled and fought for their food and lives.
As Nkosana was losing his patience with no food in his stomach, Impi decided to steal milk for his brother. From then on, Impi was forced to take the road of crime to feed his brother and provide a safe life for them.
What Was Impi and Nkosana’s Conflict?
Impi financed Nkosana’s education, and his brother chose to be a policeman. Impi tried to reason with him as he believed being a policeman would not really change society. He further stated that it was only because of the common people and their will to fight for their rights that brought justice to the country. Nkosana felt that people from his community should join the police force to make the process of seeking justice smoother.
As Nkosana prepared for his final day at the academy, after which he would be a policeman, Impi decided to leave Isando as well. He left to be with his girlfriend, who was pregnant. Impi knew he had to commit one last robbery, and after that, he could retire. He wanted to be a better father to his newborn and decided to live an honest life. As he stepped out at night, he was kidnapped by a few men. He was taken to Shaka’s den by those men. Shaka warned Impi that he could not continue his activities in this town as he did in Isando.
This town belonged to Shaka and his men. Without their permission, no crime could be committed. While they were impressed with Impi’s ability to glide through the night as a ghost and avoid capture by police, they did not want him to operate alone. If he wanted to rob, he had to join Shaka and his men.
In their first heist, Impi was informed by Shaka that he would steal the money collected by a students’ collective for the poor. Since they were poor, they believed they deserved to snatch the money. After reaching the house, Impi found money in the kitchen. Shaka instructed him to walk along with him. He found that Shaka’s men had murdered the students for easy access, and a woman was crying for help in the bedroom. Shaka asked Impi to rape the woman as she was white, and they believed that it could be a way for Impi to find justice after the whites had destroyed his family. Impi felt trapped. He never wanted to be a part of murder and rape, but Shaka’s men found ways to get him deeply involved.
While forcing himself on the girl, Impi realized it was Elizabeth, his childhood love. She worked with the organization to bring justice, something that she had promised to do when she was a little girl. Impi felt disgusted by his actions and the trouble he had landed himself in.
‘Amandla’ Ending Explained: Did Impi Manage To Escape?
Nkosana received the picture of the victim of a rape and immediately recognized Elizabeth. He went to visit her at the hospital and saw Mrs. Jakob there. After their emotional reunion, Nkosana realized that Elizabeth was brutally injured and would never recover from her brain trauma.
After taking a look at the picture, Nkosana noticed the leather satchel that lay beside the body. He knew it belonged to his brother. He paid his brother a visit; Impi confessed to the crime. He explained his situation and how the Shaka gang members had trapped him. He, too, wanted to start a new life with his girlfriend and their newborn, but life only got more complicated.
As Nkosana despised his brother for his criminal activities, Impi reminded him how it was because of Nkosana that he had to choose the path. To feed his brother and provide him with an education, he had to do whatever was required. He was only eleven when he had the responsibility of taking care of his brother, and finding a job at that age was impossible.
Impi never chose to be a criminal; it was the country’s situation that forced him down that path. Nkosana knew his brother was right. He trusted him enough to know that he would never harm Elizabeth willfully. Nkosana asked Impi to leave for KwaZulu with his family and to never return. He accompanied Impi and bought him train tickets. The news of police visiting Impi became known in town, and Impi was targeted. He kept his girlfriend and child at the landlady’s place, but she informed Shaka of their presence.
As Impi entered the house in the evening to take his family to KwaZulu, he saw Shaka and his men there. In coded terms, his girlfriend explained where she had kept the child to keep her safe, and when she refused to explain, Shaka slashed her throat. When Impi revolted, he fought Shaka’s men and locked them inside the house. He went to his house and took the baby out from under the fireplace, where she was kept hidden. Impi ran with his child, but Shaka followed after unlocking the house he was locked in.
Impi knew that running away from his life would never solve the problem. He kept his child in the care of an elderly woman who understood Impi’s situation. He then left to seek justice. He murdered Shaka’s men who were at the pub; he stepped out of the pub and saw Nkosana.
Just then, Shaka stepped in as well. Nkosana pointed his gun at Shaka and Shaka pointed his gun at Impi. Shaka wanted to take his money from the pub, and he promised to not harm the brothers. Impi told Shaka that it was his turn to shoot the prey just like their hunting days. It was important to shoot and not leave the prey at mercy. Nkosana fired his shot and killed Shaka, who, before dying, shot Impi.
Finally, Nkosana confessed that he was the one who, out of fear, had told the white men about Impi and Elizabeth. Impi said that it was neither Nkosana’s nor Impi’s fault that led to the death of their parents. As Impi took his last breath, the police arrived. They were unable to recognize Nkosana as a policeman without his uniform. At the end of ‘Amandla,’ the policemen fired Nkosana, and the two brothers died in each other’s arms for the misfortune of their people and the overall injustice that dominated the land.
One, a criminal and the other a policeman, yet it was not their choice that led to their death but rather their identity. Impi hoped for a world in which they would wake up, and with their slingshots in hand, they would go out into the wild. There would be sunlight above them, and plenty of birds in the sky. In that world, they would go together, as they were brothers for many lives. ‘Amandla’ brilliantly portrayed the tragic loss and hate millions faced, not just when Apartheid was institutionalized and legally practiced but even in the later years. ‘Amandla’ is a well-made film that centers on brotherly love, courage, and power. The film will leave you intrigued and moved.
‘Amandla’ is a 2022 South African Crime Drama film written and directed by Nerina De Jager. It is streaming on Netflix.