Under African Skies - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Under African Skies Reviews

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February 10, 2018
Is there anything better than two legends putting their powers together in this video? Big ups Paul Simon. The lyrics. ...oh my God, the lyrics. The roots of rhythm. This is music.
May 3, 2016
man i heard this paul simon south africa mamboza boyboyo boys etc graceland music so many times and still just love it...every dern time
July 15, 2014
I'm not a huge fan of "Graceland". I like the album well enough, but I have never thought of it as a masterpiece. I came out of this documentary liking it more than I had going in, which is one of the best things a documentary like this could hope for. What's most interesting is the discussion over Simon's breaking of the boycott on working with South African musicians during the Apartheid years. I think Simon comes off as someone who was right when it comes to the details, but dreadfully wrong about the big picture. He comes off as well-meaning, but totally clueless and self-centered ... never really grasping that people disagreed with him at the time because far bigger issues than his little album were at play.
½ April 4, 2014
this is a terrific exposition of the artist trying and succeeding to battle the politicians. the great musicians of africa and paul simon combined to make great music and the dvd tells what kind of bullshit they had to endure. thanks paul and the bands. it makes me want to take another trip to africa.
January 16, 2014
I just watched this, brilliant insight to this classic album :)
January 5, 2014
I have to admit. This album means a lot to me. It came out just before I went to live for 6 1/2 years in Lesotho, a country completely surrounded by South Africa. So I have a strong bias.

But I think it covered the history and controversy surrounding the album well. It was interesting seeing all of this with 25 years of hindsight.

I do wish, though, they had more of the live performances though. It seemed we mostly just got little bits and pieces.

But still definitely a movie worth seeing if you're interested in Paul Simon, apartheid South Africa, and/or African or world music!
June 20, 2013
Undeniably, Paul Simon's 'Graceland' is one of the most widely accepted albums of the 20th century, not only because of its powerful funk rhythms, vocals, and cutting-edge production - it was also the legacy of apartheid and the 'political storm' that threatened to tear it down that brought the warmth and emotion of the people 'behind the music' streaming forth from the album. Under African Skies channels that story through international 'pop' critics and fans, documenting the unease that Graceland inhabited at the beginning, capturing that perfect mix where all the tensions from the people in the studio rise to a perfect boiling point and the human spirit 'bubbles' over with an unbridled enthusiasm to invoke individualism and freedom instead of rage and resentful attitudes. While the sacrifices Paul Simon's South African counterparts have to endure once they fully commit to the project isn't as detailed as I would have liked, the musicians still speak with a generous tone and a heart full of stories that are stolidly vivid and relevant in their minds, bodies, and especially, their souls. Harry Belafonte, Quincy Jones, and a whole arsenal of the best South African musicians you'd never know lend their commentary and paint the reality, controversy, and metaphysical HAPPINESS they carried with them while recording and touring on this off-the-charts album experience. Highly Recommended.
June 5, 2013
The music has held up well enough that it's easy to forget how controversial this album was at the time. "Under African Skies" recalls the story of how the album came to be, and catches up with the musicians who performed the music.

The key scenes in the film are built around a dialog / friendly debate between Simon and anti-apartheid activist Dali Thambo. A quarter-century later, Thambo was still critical of Simon's decision to travel to South Africa in defiance of the so-called "cultural boycott," while Simon deferentially but thoroughly parries Thambo's critique.
February 22, 2013
The film's most rewarding decision is to tackle the controversy, taking this from mere retrospective to a far more interesting film about artistic collaboration and power dynamics.
December 22, 2012
This documentary manages to paint a good picture of the hardships of apartheid and portrays how music can overcome many large problems. As well as a good opportunity to reflect on how silly the un acted in response to Paul Simon's trip to South Africa. The music is also thoroughly enjoyable as well as guests varying from Paul McCartney to Oprah Winfrey. My only negative from the documentary was the pace, which I think was to slow. 4 stars.
December 9, 2012
The footage of those original South African sessions when Paul Simon first played with Ray Phiri and other South African musicians is spellbinding. Meanwhile the (largely unknown to me, I must confess) political fallout from Paul Simon breaking the ANC cultural embargo with South Africa is fascinating, and Simon tuns out to be a great philosopher on the nature of artists in a world where most power continues to sit with politicians and economists. But above all the politics, the infectious music of Graceland shines throughout, an album that makes you feel like you are discovering something every single time you listen to it.
November 22, 2012
See this now and turn the volume up.
½ September 1, 2012
Joe Berlinger captures the pure joy of transcendent artists who have sustained the South African heartbeat through a lifetime of political turmoil. The endorsement of the ANC or the repugnant Dali Tambo was, and never will be necessary. Miriam Makeba and Simon together on stage reduced me to tears !
August 31, 2012
Paul Simon is amazing.
½ August 28, 2012
Paul Simon: Under African Skies [2012]
August 14, 2012
I like the way the documentary juxtaposes an opponent of what Simon did, saying 'of course the poor black musicians wanted to work with a rich famous white guy' with one of the musicians saying 'I had never heard of him or any of his songs before.' From watching their respect for Simon (they were impressed at how he joined straight in for the take of 'Under African Skies,' perfectly in tune and time) and the way an appearance on Saturday Night Live changed everything, this is a remarkable story. Tambo's son can't quite bring himself to say Simon was right to make the album without the ANC's permission, but he almost does. I'd have loved to see him front up to some of the African musicians involved in the album, who were convinced it was right. And then, Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba getting involved in touring the album even though they weren't on the recording. How could it have been wrong? Just four years later, Mandela was free.
August 11, 2012
Just flat out a must watch doco about the story behind Paul Simons "Graceland". The idea that a once polarising argument can be explained by both sides in a civil manner 25 years later gives insight and hope.
June 16, 2012
It look it's like a good movie
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