Under African Skies

Director Joe Berlinger
United States / 102 min. / 2012 / English

25 years ago, Paul Simon bypassed the anti-apartheid boycott of South Africa and recorded Graceland there. The anniversary of the record reignites an old controversy. All the voices involved examine music, politics and (non) compliance with official orders. 


Everyone knows the history of the record, and its associated controversy. 25 years ago, Paul Simon decided to ignore the worldwide boycott of South Africa and went there to record Graceland with local black musicians. The result was a worldwide hit, and a powerful example of the perfect fusion between African and pop music, but it also brought the artist a slew of criticisms, accusing him of having acted in his own interest. The twenty-fifth anniversary of the album is the ideal occasion to go back and examine the event and the slander that resulted. Director Joe Berlinger takes us back to that context in 1985, while Simon returns to the country and meets up with his old friends, as well as with black politicians. The debate that follows, and the fusion of opposing opinions rewrite our vision of Graceland. The artist himself examines music, politics and whether (or not) to comply with official orders, accompanied by outstanding civil rights militants (Harry Belafonte and Quincy Jones), the musicians that play on the record, and a whole host of artists, from McCartney and David Byrne to Vampire Weekend and Peter Gabriel. 


Premiere type

Showing format

SXSW (Audience Award); Newport Beach Film Festival (Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking); Music Nashville Film Festival (Gibson Impact of Music Award Encounters); South African Int. Doc. Festival (Audience Award, Best International Film)

in festivals
Sundance; SXSW; Newport Beach Film Festival; Music Nashville Film Festival; South African Int. Doc. Festival

Quincy Jones; Harry Belafonte; Paul McCartney; David Byrne

Joshua L. Pearson

Bob Richman

Sound designer
Eddie O'Connor

Justin Wilkes, Joe Berlinger, Jon Kamen

Film company

Film distributor

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