On the Saturday of our weekend in London (28 April 2012) we went to the O2 for the Sundance Film Festival . We were there to see the UK première of Under African Skies , a documentary about the making and influence of Paul Simon‘s Graceland album.
The film had recently won the Nashville Film Festival’s Gibson Impact of Music Award, and it was easy to see why. In addition to showcasing one of the most artistic and important albums of all time, the film also confronts the controversy caused by Paul Simon after he was accused of violating an international cultural boycott against South Africa during the height of apartheid.
It seeks to answer the question of whether Paul Simon was irresponsible to create the album in the first place. It also questions the role of the artist:
Should they create art that transcends politics?
Should they use their fame to fight politics?
The documentary never attempts to answer that question, but Under African Skies does assert one thing with confidence. As Peter Gabriel says in the film, “Graceland helped people across the world to see that there is a lot more to South Africa than suffering.”