Under African Skies Movie 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.

Cast & Crew

Director :

Comments

Under African Skies Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: E, 2012

Advertisement

More Paul Simon

With Disorderly Conduct Charges Dropped, Edie Brickell And Paul Simon Are Free To Make Beautiful Music Together

All is well at the Simon-Brickell household, where all charges of disorderly conduct have been dropped. The musical couple was charged back in April, after...

Paul Simon And Edie Brickell Cleared Of Domestic Disturbance Charges

Paul Simon and Edie Brickell will not face charges in their disorderly conduct case.The husband and wife, who have been united throughout this legal issue,...

Paul Simon & Eddie Brickell Appear United In Court For Hearing In Disorderly Conduct Case

Paul Simon and Edie Brickell seem to have resolved their issues.The husband and wife appeared in court Friday (May 16th) at the Norwalk Superior Court...

Paul Simon, Edie Brickell Release Love Duet After Domestic Dispute Arrest

Paul Simon and Edie Brickell have released a new love song to Soundcloud following a domestic violence arrest in Connecticut. 'Like To Get To Know...

Advertisement

Paul Simon And Edie Brickell Appear United In Court After Domestic Abuse Arrest

On Monday (April 28th) Paul Simon and his wife Edie Brickell appeared in court after getting arrested over a domestic dispute.But it already seems things...

Family Spat Lands Paul Simon And Edie Brickell In Court

Grammy winner Paul Simon and his wife Edie Brickell have been going through some marital trouble lately. The two appeared in court on Monday to...

Why Was Paul Simon Arrested At Connecticut Home?

Legendary singer-songwriter Paul Simon has been arrested following an incident with his wife Edie Brickell at their home in New Canaan Connecticut. The 72-year-old and...

Sting & Paul Simon Announce North American Tour For 2014

Paul Simon and Sting are to go on a joint tour together early next year throughout North America, it has emerged. Eighteen live dates are...

Advertisement