'Under African Skies' Screened At Sundance
Last year, Joe Berlinger followed Paul Simon to South Africa for the 25th anniversary of 'Graceland', as he got reunited with musicians, such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo, he hadn’t seen since the making ofthe album
The film focuses on the musical and historical story behind the album, which Berlinger qualifies of ‘revolutionary in terms on how the music was made’.
Of course, the film also brings up the controversy aroundt he famous album as Simon was heavily criticized for valuing his own career above South African musicians’, but also for violating the cultural boycott designed to fight against apartheid, something that went way over Simon’s head since he did not know the boycott also concerned the recording. In the movie, Berlinger arranged an interesting meeting between Simon and Artists Against Apartheid’s Dali Tambo, a TV talk-show personality who was his most ferocious opponent at the time.
The film concludes with Simon and Dali being reconciled on camera, Simon accepting that people consider he did a political misstep even though he did not think himself it was one.
The irony of all this has to be the fact that Simon has never been a politicized songwriter, and none of the songs on Graceland really focused on the political aspect of South Africa, as Simon confesses it:
‘I thought about writing political songs about the situation, but I'm not actually very good at it.’
As Berlinger explained it to the Associated Press, he absolutely wanted to confront the reality of the making of Graceland and its political controversy:
‘I made it clear I didn't want a puff piece, a Paul Simon puff piece, and he didn't want a Paul Simon puff piece. We established that we're going to do an honest exploration of these issues and also go deeply into how this music was made,which, to me, is actually the more interesting part of the film.’
Although the real focus of the movie has remained the music:
‘The political story is relevant and has resonance in today's world as well, but how this album was made, the dissection of that music and that achievement to me was as interesting, or more so, than the political story.’
And apparently the film is also graced by the participation of Oprah, Vampire weekend, Harry Belafonte, Paul McCartney, Philip Glass and David Byrne, and got three standing ovations last Sunday at the premiere during the Sundance festival.
In this interview at Sundance, Paul Simon says that the tourto commemorate the 25th anniversary of 'Graceland' is still not a donedeal (what?) although he would like it to happen, especially in South Africa.But the most funny thing has to be Berlinger saying that 'Graceland' was a precursorto hip-hop in many ways, with all this sampling… What? Simon invented hip-hop?I smell another controversy.