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Under African Skies: Paul Simons Journey Back To Graceland [Blu-ray]  [Region Free]
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Feature documentary in state-of-the-art 5.1 sound with bonus extended interviews. The story of the making of Graceland, and the controversy created when Paul Simon went to South Africa to record with local artists, is told in Under African Skies, the new full-length documentary from Oscar-nominated filmmaker Joe Berlinger (Brother's Keeper, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, the West Memphis Three/Paradise Lost trilogy).
Featuring interviews with key anti-apartheid activists of the time and such musical legends as Quincy Jones, Harry Belafonte, Paul McCartney, David Byrne and Peter Gabriel, Under African Skies travels with Paul Simon back to South Africa, 25 years after his first visit, and recounts the making of the record, surveying from the vantage of history the turbulence and controversy surrounding the album's genesis. His artistic decision to collaborate with African musicians created a new world musical fusion, combining American and African musical idioms while igniting an intense political crossfire, with Paul Simon accused of breaking the UN cultural boycott of South Africa designed to end the Apartheid regime
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Top Customer Reviews
Simon's political choices in going to South Africa to record during the U.N. approved cultural boycott, seeking to keep South
Africa isolated and thus put more pressure on the white regime to step down.
Simon's reply is that artists shouldn't be subject to arbitrary political decisions - they must follow their heart and muse first, and
he did more to help raise awareness of South Africa by going than by staying away.
The film doesn't take clear sides on these questions and that's fine, a documentary doesn't have to take sides on such a morally
complex issue to be successful.
But there is something a bit slippery in Simon's somewhat pat answers that seem to be given a pass. And a meeting between Simon
and Dali Tambo, the South African head of 'Artists Against Apartheid' feels awkward and staged, each man explaining to the other their
point of view on what happened, ending with what felt like a very forced forgiveness hug.
Is the film letting Simon off too easily? Or is his very awkwardness Berlinger's point? (even his embraces of the musicians who played with
him on the album sometimes feel like they might not have happened if there wasn't a camera rolling) .
One telling detail, the fact that Simon took first credit on all the music, even though - as we hear some of the original pre-Simon
instrumentals from the album - we realize that many of the songs are almost identical, just somewhat re-arranged by Simon. Taking first
writing credit seems like an act of hubris that the film never mentions or questions.