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Under African Skies (2012)

Paul SimonMaya AngelouOkeyrema AsanteHarry Belafonte
Joe Berlinger


Under African Skies (2012) is a English movie. Joe Berlinger has directed this movie. Paul Simon,Maya Angelou,Okeyrema Asante,Harry Belafonte are the starring of this movie. It was released in 2012. Under African Skies (2012) is considered one of the best Documentary,Biography,History,Music movie in India and around the world.

Paul Simon returns to South Africa to explore the journey of his Graceland album, including the political backlash he received for allegedly breaking the UN cultural boycott of South Africa designed to end the Apartheid regime.

Under African Skies (2012) Reviews

  • About music, controversy and a different era


    Under African Skies rises above the standard music documentary to celebrate an iconic artist and/or album. In this case, it is set against the controversy about working with South African artists in a time when there was a UN cultural boycott against South Africa. What is shown in this documentary is how the iconic Graceland album (released in 1986) came about and most importantly: how the tracks were created. Defying and defending the free spirit of an artist, Paul Simon, who is above all a musician and not a politician, brought his fascination and respect for South African talented musicians (Ray Phiri, Ladysmith Black Mambazo) to the world via this album. Old footage is interspersed with newly shot material of Paul Simon's visit, 25 years since he first set foot in South Africa, and playing again with these same musicians. Warning: it is not possible to view this documentary without humming, singing and dancing along with the songs : )

  • Behind the scenes at the inception, development and performance of GRACELAND


    What joy! It is rare to find yourself beaming in a dark theatre at the people on the screen, but the joy of the performers, fully engaged with the music, was irresistible. It helped that I'd been privileged to attend the original Graceland tour in the 80's and had actually brought both my daughters, ages 11 and 16, with me. I beamed all through THAT performance as well. "Under African Skies" gives the cool background details about how the whole project started and unfolded, including the political flak Paul Simon and the team went through from the left. What a delight to meet the guys from LadySmith Black Mombaso, and hear the tale from their point of view. Some strange white guy wants to play music with them - such open hearted folks, despite apartheid, they went for it for the love of their music. I want to see this movie again AND I want all my friends and family to see it too. My only problem is if they don't love it as much as I do!

  • An eye-opener


    I was amazed to learn how Graceland came about. Turns out many of the songs were instrumentals from the African groups involved which Paul tweaked a bit and then later added lyrics to. What a great tale of creation and cooperation! Paul was vilified by a few for breaking the boycott against South Africa, despite the fact that he performed with exiled artists and also shared with the world some very talented black artists who certainly weren't supporting obnoxious government policies. The angry ones are nowadays pretty much over it, as depicted in the film. What keeps this from being a 10 is the useless addition of Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldeberg. They had nothing to do with Simon's actions, and their opinions matter as much as mine, in other words, not at all. Whoopi, shouldn't you be out pleading the case for Roman Polanski or something? Off to listen to Graceland now...

  • going' to Graceland


    UNDER African SKIES may be one of the best "making of" ever made. There are many other elements that certainly make it something more than just a "making of", but in essence it's just that, a look at how Paul Simon's classic album "Graceland" was created. In fact, the project began as many others: to celebrate a special anniversary of the record, the number 25, with a concert. To begin, and if we think only in the musical stuff, the fact that every key musician in the realization of "Graceland" are still alive and could be localized for the first reunion in years with Simon give a whole lot more value to the celebration idea. So, director Joe Berlinger went to South Africa to capture this reunion of Simon and the African musicians, their rehearsals and finally the anniversary concert (celebrated in Johannesburg). Is a real joy to see these musicians together, and you don't really have to know "Graceland" or any other Paul Simon record for that matter. Soon you'll get the essence of the record, you'll know its origins, the composition process (of both the music and the lyrics), the recording process, personal experiences of the people involved, and mostly the context. If as a "making of" this is a very rich work, as a documentary on the apartheid is even more. I don't think I'm the only one who some months ago came out from the theater thinking that Bob Marley has been socially the most important musician ever. In the documentary MARLEY (Kevin Macdonald, 2012) we see a couple of issues that in specific show the power of music – Marley provoking a peaceful encounter between two rival politicians in Jamaica, and his visit to Zimbabwe during the independence celebration. There's no doubt UNDER African SKIES achieves its main goal and exposes how important was "Graceland" for a South African society that was devastated by the apartheid. The interesting thing can be observed with the little big differences between Paul Simon and someone like Marley. A year prior to the independence of Zimbabwe, Marley wrote a superb anti-colonization piece, simply titled "Zimbabwe". Simon, on the other hand, was never interested in political subjects and the only reason why he traveled to South Africa was the huge love he had for African music. So the interesting is that the admirable conviction of Simon to make music with the Africans didn't mean anything but the liberation of a nation that suffered its government and the international boycott too. Simon's message was almost involuntary but just as important as the ones of people like Marley. The richness of this documentary can be summarized with a couple of situations that involves the South African vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. One is just a musical gem, and the other makes us think; but both are about discovering and emotion. For our delight, two members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo take us to their first musical encounter with Simon, the preparation of the "Graceland" tune "Homeless". The other situation is something we will never fully understand: what did the South African musicians feel when they leaved their country to see the "free" world, walk in the streets of Manhattan, enter the Saturday Night Live studio? UNDER African SKIES shows a battle for art, for the freedom of its creators and the need to keep it independent of any political force, all with a controversial but mostly just fascinating soundtrack. *Watched it on 16 February, 2013

  • The roots of rhythm remain


    Coming after the failure of singer/songwriter Paul Simon's solo album Hearts and Bones, and the messy breakup with Art Garfunkel, his 1986 album Graceland was the most successful of his career and, to many, the artistic highlight. Simon's return to South Africa to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Graceland is documented in Joe Berlinger's exuberant Under African Skies. The film includes original footage of rehearsals and performances from past and present including an emotionally-charged appearance on Saturday Night Live, interviews with prominent musicians and political leaders, as well as disturbing images of police brutality during the period of Apartheid. It is a fascinating documentary that is not just a standard puff piece but one that deals with the complex relationship between art and politics. Berlinger records the playful give and take of the recording sessions and how the songs developed in Simon's mind from the influence of African bands such as Stimela and the acapella singing of Ladysmith Black Mombazo. Extensive footage from the original recording sessions is interspersed with actual performances both from 1986 and the present day (the latter a pale imitation of the original). Though the reunion is a celebration of friendship and even love (Joseph Shambala of Ladysmith Black Mombazo says that Simon was "the first white musician that he ever hugged"), the film does not duck controversy. The issue is the antagonism of anti-Apartheid activists stemming from Simon's 1985 South Africa trip to recruit black musicians that broke the United Nations cultural boycott. There is a lot of discussion in Under African Skies, perhaps more than music, but it is relevant to the important issues the film raises. Berlinger sets up an exchange between Simon and Dali Tambo, a member of the Artists Against Apartheid that allows each side to present their case without rancor or bitterness. Both present convincing arguments and the director wisely does not attempt to skew the debate towards one side, though it is seems fairly easy to guess where his feelings lie. Weighing in on the issue are prominent personalities such as Harry Belafonte, Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, David Byrne, Philip Glass, Quincy Jones, Paul McCartney, and others. While Graceland may not have directly contributed to the end of Apartheid, Simon contends that the music they produced was an instrument of healing that ultimately was more powerful and of greater political benefit than the boycott. Helping to introduce South African music to the world, he says, demonstrated that another way was possible in South Africa and that the real story was the impact that the project had on the Black musicians and their comments in the film expressing humility and gratitude for the opportunity they were given are the emotional high point of the film. Referring to the African National Congress (ANC), Simon asserts that the artist should not be dictated to by politicians no matter what their cause, and if the ANC wanted to control what he sang and who he sang with, they would be no different than the government they were fighting to overthrow. Isolated and oppressed in their home country, when the ANC ordered the musicians home from their world tour, the guitarist Ray Phiri, told the ANC leadership, "I am a victim of apartheid. It is not possible to victimize the victim twice!" Tambo, on the other hand, counters by saying that Simon's "appropriating" and using Black South African musicians for his own ends is exploitation and, in the context of the UN cultural boycott, endangered the efforts to end Apartheid. Though obviously staged for dramatic effect, the back and forth argument between Simon and Tambo is conducted with restraint and respect and each point of view is given a full hearing. With the 1992 release of Nelson Mandela that signaled the end of Apartheid and the coming to power of the ANC, the controversy has faded but Simon's breakthrough album remains an exhilarating artistic achievement that has lost none of its power after twenty five years, and joyous songs such as You Can Call Me Al, Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes, The Boy in the Bubble, and Graceland still have the power to move. Under African Skies is a must see not only for music fans, but for anyone who does not rule out the possibility of being inspired. Though the debate about the relationship between art and politics is not resolved and may never be, the words and the pulsating music of Paul Simon's song Under African Skies performed with Miriam Makeba at a concert in Zimbabwe delivers a message that is loud and clear, "This is the story," the song says. "of how we begin to remember; this is the powerful pulsing of love in the vein; after the dream of falling and calling your name out; these are the roots of rhythm and the roots of rhythm remain."

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