Twenty-five years ago, Paul Simon’s Graceland album brought international attention to South African music while the country’s black populace still suffered under apartheid. By recording in South Africa, Simon defied the United Nations cultural boycott and became embroiled in controversy. Director Joe Berlinger (Oscar-nominated this year for Paradise Lost 3) follows Simon as he travels back to South Africa for a reunion concert with the Graceland band members.
A rich array of archival footage evokes the exciting and tumultuous period of the album’s creation. Now revisiting the country, Simon meets with Dali Tambo who was once an outspoken critic of Graceland as the founder of Artists Against Apartheid and son of the African National Congress leader Oliver Tambo. The dialogue between musician and activist raises probing questions about the intersection of art and politics. The film deepens our appreciation for what Simon considers his greatest musical achievement. Interviewees include Oprah Winfrey, Paul McCartney, David Byrne, Harry Belafonte and Whoopi Goldberg. – Thom Powers