Under African Skies

Watch Under African Skies

  • NR
  • 2012
  • 2 hr 2 min
  • 7.7  (531)
  • 82

Under African Skies is a 2012 documentary film directed by Joe Berlinger. The film narrates the making of Paul Simon's iconic album "Graceland" and the political controversy that surrounded this album's production. Paul Simon embarked on a musical journey that would bind him to South Africa, inspire generations of musicians and music lovers, and change the face of popular music. But at the time, he faced harsh criticism and backlash for breaking the cultural boycott of South Africa that was enforced internationally.

The documentary starts by taking the viewer back to the time in 1985 when Simon had come to South Africa to work with local musicians for his album Graceland. Through interviews with Simon, the local musicians he collaborated with, and other music legends, the film beautifully captures the essence of the music and the people involved. The documentary skillfully weaves together rare archival footage and performances with present-day interviews to create a powerful and emotional narrative.

As the film unfolds, it becomes clear that the process of making Graceland was a cathartic one for Simon. He had been going through a creative slump, and traveling to South Africa and working with the local musicians on this album reinvigorated his passion for music. We see him collaborating with artists such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and learning about local music culture. This collaboration gave birth to some of the most iconic tracks of the album, like "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes," "Graceland," and "You Can Call Me Al."

However, it was not all smooth sailing for Simon. As the film highlights, Graceland faced intense criticism and controversy at the time of its release. Simon was accused of breaking the cultural boycott of South Africa, which was enforced internationally to protest apartheid. Many people, including artists like Harry Belafonte and the UN's cultural arm condemned Simon's decision to work with local musicians in South Africa. The film features interviews with protesters and detractors who explain their objections and concerns.

The documentary, though, elegantly addresses the controversy and contextualizes Simon's actions. The film acknowledges that Simon did breach the cultural boycott, but it also provides Simon's perspective on the issue. Through interviews with South African musicians and singers who worked with Simon, the film portrays how the making of the Graceland album brought people together and created unity amidst the political tensions of apartheid.

Another strength of the documentary is its ability to capture the spirit of South Africa's vibrant music scene. Through the interviews with local musicians and singers, we get a glimpse of their lives, their culture, and their struggles during apartheid. We see how music was used as a tool for resistance and a means of expression. The film shows how Simon's work with South African musicians created a new musical language that transcended cultural and linguistic barriers and united people.

Under African Skies also includes candid interviews with some of the world's most celebrated and respected musicians, including Quincy Jones, Harry Belafonte, David Byrne, and Philip Glass. These interviews provide fascinating behind-the-scenes perspectives on how the album came to be and the impact it had on music.

The documentary features a diverse cast of characters connected by music, including Maya Angelou, among others. The interviews with Angelou are particularly moving as she discusses the power of music to bring people together and transcend cultural barriers.

Finally, the music itself is, of course, a highlight of the film. The soundtrack includes recordings from the Graceland album as well as new performances from some of the original musicians. The music is jubilant, heartbreaking, and inspiring, all at once, and it underscores the power of music to unite people across cultural divides.

In conclusion, Under African Skies is a powerful and insightful documentary that tells the story of the making of one of the most iconic albums of all time. It is a celebration of music, culture, and humanity, and it highlights the transformative and unifying power of music. It is a must-watch for music lovers and anyone interested in the history and cultures of South Africa.

Under African Skies is a 2012 music movie with a runtime of 2 hours and 2 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.7 and a MetaScore of 82.

Under African Skies
Where to Watch Under African Skies
Under African Skies is available to watch, stream, download and buy on demand at Amazon Prime, The Roku Channel and Apple TV. Some platforms allow you to rent Under African Skies for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    2 hr 2 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.7  (531)
  • Metascore