08/06/2012 04:58 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

"Paul Simon's Graceland Journey -- 25 Years Later."

The reach of oppression can be vast. The poor, outspoken, different, and dissonant
are often harmed by political and social persecution; however, oppression can also
hinder another foundational element of culture: artistic expression. In its fight
against racial segregation, the Anti-Apartheid Movement in South Africa established
a cultural boycott during the 1960s. The purpose of the boycott was to demonstrate
international disapproval of the racist policies instilled by the South African
National Party. Various multinational efforts to isolate South Africa with regard to
film, sport, and music persisted until the lifting of apartheid in 1994.

A new documentary playing on SnagFilms, Under African Skies, tells the story
of Paul Simon's 1985 trip to South Africa to record his now-legendary, Grammy-
winning album Graceland. Through interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Paul
McCartney, Peter Gabriel, Quincy Jones, Lorne Michaels, and Paul Simon himself, the
film highlights the musical, historical, and cultural significance of Simon's album.
Graceland is undoubtedly praiseworthy and pivotal; however, Under African Skies
examines the broader power of music, and more specifically, how this power affects

In a country torn apart by racism, Paul Simon connected with his black band
members in a way that speaks to the unifying force of art and music, a force capable
of transcending oppression and political turmoil. Simon's guitarist and longtime
friend Ray Phiri refers to music as the closest thing to religion, and believes in music
as a tool to bring people together to "find solutions to their problems." In his view,
that is exactly what Graceland achieved. Along with Phiri, Simon's band members
were bound together by their musical collaboration, and this bond remains firmly

Although creating Graceland was a transcendent personal experience for the
musicians, Simon drew a firestorm of criticism for violating the cultural boycott.
Not surprisingly, his toughest critics are former members of the Anti-Apartheid
Movement. In their view, Simon's presence in South Africa was counterproductive
to their struggle to isolate the racist National Party and end apartheid.
Under African Skies maintains a tension between Simon's faith and love of
music and the harsh reality of racial tension that pervades the nation. This tension
builds throughout Simon's account of the formation of Graceland, and pressure to
stop recording only added to theme of artistic repression in South Africa. Watch
the full story of the making of Graceland and see both the lives of those who were
forever affected by the album and the dramatic global response to Simon's time in
South Africa. Under African Skies will be available on through August