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

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

The 2012 Canadian comedy Goon was one of those surprising little films that snuck up...

Detroit Movie Review

Detroit Movie Review

After The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal reteam to...

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Good news: Steven Soderbergh's well-publicised retirement from directing only lasted about four years. He's back...

American Made Movie Review

American Made Movie Review

An enjoyably freewheeling tone and Tom Cruise's star wattage combine to make this an entertaining...

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

It's been a decade since Al Gore's wake-up-call documentary won the Oscar. And here he...

Advertisement
The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

Final Portrait Movie Review

Final Portrait Movie Review

A relaxed, amusing true story about noted Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, this sharply...

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...

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.