Its hard to believe how much time has passed since Paul Simon released his classic album “Graceland”. Its not just the catchy tunes (“You Can Call Me Al”, “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes”), but the political and musical implications of his endeavor that are remembered.
Skies starts out with withering criticism from the African National Congress and Anti-Apartheid groups about Simon violating the ban on cultural exchanges with the South Africa at that time. The film is rather even-handed on his decision to skirt (or ignore) the UN agreement. In retrospect 25 years later, it is hard not to think the level of protests over his involvement with South African artists was over the top. Clearly the artists loved working with Simon.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect was watching two adversaries (Simon and Dali Tambo of the ANC) face off 25 years later discussing the disagreement like it was yesterday. In contrast to our current political environment, the two talked respectfully about their perceptions, appeared genuinely concerned and wrapped everything up with a hug.
The musical implications are much more positive. Before Graceland, the concept of World Music was quite uncommon. Seeing Simon performing “Diamonds” to a stunned audience on Saturday Night Live in 1986 just shows how this one album charted new territory in integrating music and countries. Interestingly, Simon jammed with the artists for several weeks and then left for New York to create lyrics and music around their foundation.
If you don’t catch it at the Film Festival, its coming to the Cedar Lee in the next few months. Even if you aren’t a Paul Simon fan, you won’t want to miss it.
Competent: 3 1/2 *(out of 4) Compelling 3 1/2 * Saturday: 1:15, Sunday April 1