Under African Skies

"Excellent"

Under African Skies Review


This beautifully assembled documentary traces the creation of Paul Simon's seminal 1986 album Graceland, focussing on the political controversy the recording sessions sparked because South Africa was under a cultural boycott at the time. It's a skilful film that entertains as it reveals something important about history.

In 1985, Simon quietly travelled to South Africa to record tracks for his next album, invited by local musicians. But he and was shocked by racial tension he saw between blacks and whites there, and afterwards was caught off-guard by criticism from anti-Apartheid leaders who said his visit violated the boycott.

Simon argued that he wanted to avoid politics and collaborate with fellow musicians. For them, working with a world-class artist was a chance in a million. And Ladysmith Black Mambazo leader Shabalala says Simon was the first white man he'd ever hugged.

Through interviews with everyone involved, Berlinger captures the magic of the recording sessions, allowing Simon to unpick the songs, where they came from and what they mean. It's hugely engaging, sharply shot and edited, with moments that take the breath away, both in present-day interviews and extensive footage from the recording sessions and subsequent world tour that reveal the lively, loose, collaborative atmosphere.

We also experience Ladysmith Black Mambazo's overwhelming first encounter with freedom and equality when they travelled to Abbey Road studios and then to New York for a milestone appearance on Saturday Night Live. All of this puts Graceland into context: not only was it critically acclaimed, but it also made Apartheid emotional for the first time. These gifted musicians had no rights in their home country. So by working with them, Simon highlighted how the boycott was victimising musicians.

Throughout the film, Berlinger maintains a steely, complex political tone that forcefully explores the links between politics and art. As Simon says, politicians always think artists work for them, because they want to co-opt the love and respect people give to artists. "But artists are speaking a deeper truth," he says. And by taking such a colour-blind, apolitical approach, Simon played an important role in bringing down Apartheid. Intriguingly, and a bit worryingly, this is something the ANC still won't admit. Although Nelson Mandela gets it.



Under African Skies

Facts and Figures

Run time: 108 mins

In Theaters: Sunday 22nd January 2012

Distributed by: IFC Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 16

IMDB: 7.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Self

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

The Big Sick Movie Review

The Big Sick Movie Review

It may be rather long for a romantic comedy, but this film has such a...

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

There's no reason why this animated comedy adventure needed to be this pointless. Solidly entertaining...

Advertisement
England Is Mine Movie Review

England Is Mine Movie Review

While this is billed as a film about The Smiths' singer-songwriter Morrissey, it's actually an...

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

It's been 20 years since French filmmaker Luc Besson shook up the sci-fi genre with...

Dunkirk Movie Review

Dunkirk Movie Review

Britain's epic 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk has been dramatised on film before, but no one...

Killing Ground Movie Review

Killing Ground Movie Review

From Australia, this dark and edgy thriller is skilfully made by writer-director Damien Power to...

City of Ghosts Movie Review

City of Ghosts Movie Review

This award-winning documentary plays like a thriller as it traces the work of a group...

Cars 3 Movie Review

Cars 3 Movie Review

It's been six years since the last Cars movie (there were two Planes movies in...

The Beguiled Movie Review

The Beguiled Movie Review

In her inimitable loose style, Sofia Coppola remakes the 1971 Clint Eastwood movie from a...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.