Artisan Pictures has acquired North American distribution rights to the award-winning documentary Amandla! A Revolution In Four Part Harmony which was produced in association with HBO/Cinemax Documentary Films. The theatrical sale marks a departure for HBO which traditionally premieres its documentaries on its own channel.

"We're excited about the opportunity to explore theatrical exposure for the documentary form and look forward to cultivating new audiences for non-fiction films," said Sheila Nevins, HBO's executive vice president, original programming, in a statement.

The purchase of the film continues what is becoming a trend for Artisan which grossed over $7m with 1998 music documentary Buena Vista Social Club and will release another Standing In The Shadows Of Motown later this year.

Amandla!, which is directed by Lee Hirsch and produced by Hirsch and Sherry Simpson, will have an accompanying soundtrack to be distributed by ATO Records in Oct. The film - which won the audience award and the Freedom of Expression award at Sundance this year, traces the role of music in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

It will have its South African premiere on Sunday at the recently opened Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. That date, June 16, is also the date of the Soweto uprising which took place 26 years ago.

The film was brought to Artisan by executive vice president Patrick Gunn and senior vice president of acquisitions Rachel Cohen. Gunn brokered the acquisition deal on behalf of Artisan with Micah Green of Cinetic Media and Paul Brennan of Sloss Law Offices on behalf of the film-makers.