Joe Berlinger’s documentary “Under African Skies,” about the stormy creation and broad influence of Paul Simon’s landmark 1986 album “Graceland,” will become a key component of Sony Legacy’s 25th anniversary re-release of the set after its Sundance premiere on Sunday.
After an airing on A&E and a limited theatrical run, feature will appear in a director’s cut version on an expanded collector’s boxed edition of “Graceland” to be released by Sony Music Entertainment’s catalog unit this spring.
In an interview with Variety last year, Simon intimated that a “Graceland” tour with his original South African collaborators could be in the offing in 2012, but a Legacy spokesman said nothing official had been decided to date.
Berlinger’s feature revisits the controversy surrounding the making of “Graceland,” which singer-songwriter Simon recorded in South Africa using indigenous musicians during the country’s restrictive era of apartheid and a U.N. cultural boycott of the nation.
Last year, the director traveled to South Africa, where Simon performed with members of the original “Graceland” troupe — including trumpeter Hugh Masekela, vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo and guitarist Ray Phiri — in a reunion concert.
Besides Simon and the principal players, pic features interviews with Quincy Jones, Harry Belafonte, Paul McCartney, David Byrne and Peter Gabriel, as well as key anti-apartheid activists.
A pioneering world-music work, “Graceland” remains the most popular and most highly lauded of Simon’s solo releases. It is credited with worldwide sales of 14 million and spent 97 weeks on the U.S. album chart. It received a Grammy for album of the year in 1987; the following year, its title track garnered song of the year honors.
“It’s the peak of my career, I think,” Simon told Variety last year.
Besides a DVD of the Berlinger film, Legacy’s “Graceland” reissue will contain bonus tracks, which may include live renditions of material from the album from Simon’s original 1987-88 tour dates.
“Graceland” was originally released by Warner Bros. Records. Last year, Sony Legacy assumed control of Simon’s entire back catalog and began an extensive reissue campaign.