‘Under African Skies’ – the 25th Anniversary of Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’

This press release courtesy of Sony Music

“Under African Skies,” a new documentary film chronicling the controversial recording of Graceland and its subsequent impact–and enduring influence–on world music and pop culture, premiered to rave reviews at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and continues its festival run throughout the spring and early summer. Among its gathering accolades, “Under African Skies” has been honored at the South By Southwest Film and Music Festival (Audience Award), the Cleveland International Film Festival (Roxanne T. Mueller Audience Choice Award), the Nashville Film Festival (Gibson Impact of Music Award), the Banff Festival (Rockie Award – Investigative & Current Affairs Programs) and the Newport Beach Film Festival (Festival Honors Award – Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking).

The critically-acclaimed new documentary from Academy Award-nominated and two-time Emmy-winning filmmaker Joe Berlinger (“Brother’s Keeper,” “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster,” the West Memphis Three/”Paradise Lost” trilogy) will have its broadcast debut on the A&E Network on May 25 (10pm Eastern, please check your local listings).

“Unmissable…,” proclaimed Rolling Stone, calling the film “…a cultural lightning bolt that soars on its music and an unshakeable belief in the transcendence of art.”

“Brilliant! Required viewing! Not to be missed!,” raved Access Hollywood, singling out the movie as “One of the best rock-docs ever made!”

The Hollywood Reporter called “Under African Skies” nothing less than “A pure-bliss celebration of Paul Simon’s landmark album Graceland.”

Following a screening at the London Sundance Film Festival, The Times of London’s Laura Silverman, in a five-star review, said Under African Skies “… is the first documentary I’ve ever wanted to get up and dance to. For the generation that grew up on Paul Simon’s Graceland album, the film is a revelation — politically and musically.”

Stephen Holden, writing for The New York Times (May 10, 2012), praised, “… Joe Berlinger’s enlightening documentary about the making of Graceland, Paul Simon’s masterwork, on the occasion of its 25th anniversary,” in a review noting that “Reconciliation is the theme of this movie about a work of art whose every riff and playful verse embodies the idea of music’s healing powers….The film skillfully interweaves several strands to tell a true story with a happy ending.”

Los Angeles Times (May 11, 2012) film critic Betsy Sharkey called “Under African Skies” an “excellent new documentary” which “With a moving intimacy and consistent candor…is a satisfying blend of insight and entertainment as it examines the artistry and the politics of the Grammy-winning album, which stands among Simon’s best work…. The footage shot of the recording sessions as the music of Graceland actually took shape is a remarkable bit of unseen history…. hearing the stories of those involved in Graceland, watching the invention of the music, and hearing once again the songs, it’s hard to imagine what it would be like not having it around.”

Additional festival screenings of “Under African Skies” include the Maryland Film Festival (May 4-6), IDFA (May 8), Seattle International Film Festival (May 17-June 10), the Human Rights Watch Film Festivals, the Sydney Film Festival (June 6-17) and Jacob Burns (June 22). The film recently completed simultaneous full-week bi-coastal runs (May 11-17) at the Laemmle Monica in Los Angeles and the IFC Center in New York.

AMEX will host a special premiere event at the fabled Ziegfeld Theater in Manhattan on Tuesday, June 5, to celebrate the release of the Graceland 25th Anniversary editions.

“Under African Skies” travels with Paul Simon back to South Africa, a quarter century after the making of Graceland. Paul 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. 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 earned the Song of the Year Grammy with its title track in 1988. The album generated three hit singles–“You Can Call Me Al,” “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” and “The Boy in the Bubble”–while keeping Paul Simon and the Graceland tour on the road for five years.

“Under African Skies” features interviews with key anti-apartheid activists of the time and such musical legends as Quincy Jones, Harry Belafonte, Paul McCartney and Peter Gabriel.

“Under African Skies” will be available in the following Graceland 25th Anniversary configurations:

Graceland 25th Anniversary Edition CD/DVD – Original album plus bonus tracks including previously unreleased demos from the 1987 legendary Ovation Studio Sessions in Johannesburg, South Africa and “The Story of Graceland” as told by Paul Simon. DVD features “Under African Skies” plus bonus scenes and extended interviews.

Graceland 25th Anniversary Edition Collector’s Edition Box Set 2 CD/ 2 DVD – Includes all CD/DVD material plus two books and collectible poster housed in deluxe slipcase. First book collects new and archival photographs, new interviews with Paul Simon and a complete telling of the Graceland story. The second book is a facsimile reproduction of Paul’s handwritten lyrics pad for the album.

Disc One – remastered Graceland CD
1. The Boy in the Bubble
2. Graceland
3. I Know What I Know
4. Gumboots
5. Diamonds on The Soles of Her Shoes
6. You Can Call Me Al
7. Under African Skies
8. Homeless
9. Crazy Love, Vol. II
10. That Was Your Mother
11. All Around The World or the Myth of Fingerprints

Disc Two – Bonus Tracks
1. Homeless (demo)
2. Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes (alternate version)
3. All Around the World or The Myth of Fingerprints (early version)
4. You Can Call Me Al (demo) (previously unissued)
5. Crazy Love (demo) (previously unissued)
6. The Story of “Graceland” – as told by Paul Simon (previously unissued)

Disc Three – DVD 1 – UNDER AFRICAN SKIES- Paul Simon’s Graceland Journey
Bonus footage includes extended interviews with film participants
You Can Call Me Al
The Boy In The Bubble
Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes – From Saturday Night Live, November 22, 1986

Disc Four – DVD 2 – GRACELAND: THE AFRICAN CONCERT – Released on DVD for the first time

The original Graceland album was released on audiophile-grade 180-gram vinyl in April in honor of Record Store Day 2012. The highly-collectible new vinyl edition of Graceland includes a collectible poster plus MP3 downloads of the album and bonus songs.

Digital configurations will include the Graceland 25th Anniversary Edition (original album plus bonus tracks including previously unreleased demos from the 1987 legendary Ovation Studio Sessions in Johannesburg, South Africa and “The Story of Graceland” as told by Paul Simon) and the “Under African Skies” long-form video will be available for download in standard and high-definition formats.