On January 22, 2012, “Under African Skies,” the new Joe Berlinger-directed documentary chronicling the creation and lasting influence of Paul Simon’s groundbreaking Graceland, will debut at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, kicking off a year’s long celebration commemorating the 25th anniversary of Simon’s musical and cultural achievement.
Following its Sundance premiere, “Under African Skies,” one of the year’s most eagerly anticipated documentaries, is slated for international film festival screenings and a limited theatrical run as well as airings on A&E.
The story of the making of Graceland, and the controversy created when Simon went to South Africa to record with local artists, is told in “Under African Skies,” the new full-length documentary from two-time Emmy and Peabody Award winning filmmaker Joe Berlinger (“Brother’s Keeper,” “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster,” the West Memphis Three/”Paradise Lost” trilogy) and [email protected] and A&E IndieFilms.
Coming this spring, Legacy Recordings will release a Graceland 25th anniversary commemorative edition deluxe collector’s box set as well as a special two-disc set, each featuring the original album with bonus tracks and the director’s cut of “Under African Skies.”
“Under African Skies” travels with Paul Simon back to South Africa 25 years after his first visit. Simon revisits 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.
The universal appeal of the music of Graceland proved more powerful and enduring than the political hotbed attending its creation. In 1986, the album sold 14 million copies worldwide, and received universal praise from critics around the globe. Simon and the members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo performed on Saturday Night Live and appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone.
By January of 1987, “You Can Call Me Al” was everywhere and Graceland won Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards in 1987. Then, in an unprecedented carryover, the album garnered the Grammy for Song of the Year with its title track in 1988. The album generated three hit singles and kept Paul Simon and the Graceland tour on the road for five years.
In the film, Simon provides a fresh and revelatory perspective on the album while gathering the record’s original musicians for a transcendental Graceland concert reunion. “Under African Skies” features 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.
Graceland continues to provide rewards to its listeners and remains a pivotal listening experience for writers, artists and fans. “Paul Simon’s Graceland played a greatly significant role in removing the standoffish dread Western culture harbored toward South Africa during its internal struggle against apartheid, humanizing both a country’s soul-searching hunger for liberation and its simultaneous outpouring of cathartic creative expression.” – Timothy White, Billboard
“Prior to Graceland, the music of South Africa was largely unknown outside the country, except to a small minority of world music fans…” – Peter Gabriel
“I don’t like the idea that people who aren’t adolescents make records. Adolescents make the best records. Except for Paul Simon. Except for Graceland. He’s hit a new plateau there, but he’s writing to his own age group. Graceland is something new. – Joe Strummer interviewed by Richard Cromelin for the Los Angeles Times on January 31, 1988
About A&E IndieFilms
A&E IndieFilms is the feature documentary production arm of A&E Network. A&E IndieFilms is committed to developing the work of outstanding independent filmmakers and helping them reach the broadest possible audience. A&E IndieFilmscommissions, acquires and provides finishing funds for feature documentaries intended for co-branded theatrical release. Films include the 2006 and 2007 Academy Award nominees for Best Documentary Feature, Murderball and Jesus Camp; Nanette Burstein’s American Teen, which received the Directing Award at Sundance Film Festival; Amir Bar-Lev’s My Kid Could Paint That; R.J. Cutler’s The September Issue; Amir Bar-Lev’s 2011 PGA Award nominee The Tillman Story and Alex Gibney’s 2011 PGA Award and DGA Award nominee Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer.
@radical.media is a global transmedia company that creates some of the world’s most innovative content across all forms of media. The company develops, produces and distributes television, feature films, commercials, music programming, live events, smartphone & tablet applications, digital content and design. The company has produced a number of award-winning feature projects, including the Academy Award®-winning documentary The Fog of War; the Grammy Award-winning Concert for George; the Independent Spirit Award-winning Metallica: Some Kind of Monster; the pilot episode of the Emmy® and Golden Globe winning series Mad Men; the Emmy-winning 10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America for the History Channel; six seasons of the critically acclaimed series Iconoclasts for the Sundance Channel; the premiere seasons of Oprah Presents Master Class and Visionaries for OWN; and recently, the HBO documentary, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory. Additionally, the company has garnered numerous accolades for digital initiatives such as The Johnny Cash Project, Arcade Fire’s The Wilderness Downtown, the Sting 25 Years App and the Gagosian Gallery’s iPad App. In addition to its Oscar®, Golden Globe® and Grammy® wins, @radical.media has earned two Palme d’Or Awards at the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival. The company has won numerous Emmys®, Webbys®, D&AD Pencils, One Show Pencils, MTV VMA Awards, Clios, Art Directors Club medals, the prestigious Smithsonian National Design Award for Communications Media and just about every accolade and trophy associated with the advertising and marketing industries, in both traditional and new media. @radical.media is a FremantleMedia Company. FremantleMedia’s global production arm is responsible for many of the world’s highest rated prime time television programmes and its brand extension arm FremantleMedia Enterprises offers a one-stop-shop for all Licensing, Distribution and Home Entertainment globally. www.radicalmedia.com
About Legacy Recordings
The multiple Grammy-winning Legacy Recordings, Sony Music Entertainment’s catalog division, produces and maintains the world’s foremost catalog of historic reissues, an unparalleled compendium of thousands of digitally remastered archival titles representing virtually every musical genre including popular, rock, jazz, blues, R&B, folk, country, gospel, Broadway musicals, movie soundtracks, ethnic, world music, classical, comedy and more.
Founded in 1990 by CBS Records (rebranded Sony Music in 1991), Legacy’s original mission was to preserve and reissue recordings from the extensive catalogs of Columbia Records (including ARC, Brunswick, OKeh and Vocalion), Epic Records (including Philadelphia International Records) and associated CBS labels. Following the creation of Sony BMG Music Entertainment (now Sony Music Entertainment) in 2005, Legacy assumed responsibility for the preservation and ongoing availability of recordings from the archives of the BMG family of labels including RCA Records, Arista, J Records, Jive, Profile, Silvertone, Sony BMG Nashville and Windham Hill, as well as imprints including American, Bang!, CTI, Mainstream, Monument, Ode, and others.