If you were to force me to put together a Top Five Favorite Albums — and please don't, as I'd likely hem and haw myself to death — it's likely that Paul Simon's Graceland would be in there. So yes, I'm biased. But I'd venture to guess that even for the casual Graceland fan, Joe Berlinger's Under African Skies is a captivating and well-crafted documentary. Skies showed at the 2012 Nashville Film Fest, and when we were putting together our preview issue, I insisted that editor-in-chief Jim Ridley let me screen and blurb it. Once I'd finally gotten my grubby paws on the screener and Jim had politely shooed me out of his office, here's what I came up with:
So much more than your stock rock doc, director Joe Berlinger's Under African Skies chronicles the 25th anniversary of Paul Simon's explosive album Graceland, recorded amid the political turmoil of apartheid, and Simon's recent reunion with the artists who played on the record and subsequent tour. Because Simon broke the African National Congress' cultural boycott in order to collaborate with South African outfits like Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Stimela, many critics at the time of Graceland's release felt he was landing on the wrong side of history. But Under African Skies suggests — via interviews with Paul McCartney, Harry Belafonte, Oprah Winfrey, Quincy Jones, Philip Glass and Artists Against Apartheid founder Dali Tambo — that Simon's synthesis of African and Western styles transcended the maelstrom of debate and did more to bring black South Africans' plight into the international spotlight than perhaps any other album. Also, yes, there is some absolutely choice performance footage, and you can't do much better than the eloquent Belafonte for a Greek chorus. D. PATRICK RODGERS
Our Gulch neighbors Two Old Hippies will show Under African Skies for free tonight at 6 p.m. — that leaves you enough time to hit Poetry Sucks afterwards. There's a Facebook event page, and there will reportedly be door prizes and popcorn.