Paul Simon’s Graceland Journey
About the Film

Paul Simon’s Graceland Journey: Under African Skies begins with Paul Simon’s 2011 emotional journey back to South Africa and the roots of his seminal album Graceland, but it unfolds into a kaleidoscopic portrait of the turbulent birth and ever-shifting life of a work of art.

Joe Berlinger’s film airs on Great Performances Friday, January 4 at 9 p.m. on PBS. (Check local listings.)

Watch a preview:

Great Performances is a production of THIRTEEN for WNET, one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers. For 50 years, THIRTEEN has been making the most of the rich resources and passionate people of New York and the world, reaching millions of people with on-air and online programming that celebrates arts and culture, offers insightful commentary on the news of the day, explores the worlds of science and nature, and invites students of all ages to have fun while learning.

Paul Simon’s Graceland Journey tracks the controversial recording of Graceland and its subsequent impact–and enduring influence–on world music and pop culture, made its premiere at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.  It has been honored at the South By Southwest Film and Music Festival, the Cleveland International Film Festival, the Nashville Film Festival, the Banff Festival and the Newport Beach Film Festival.

In Paul Simon’s Graceland Journey, Simon 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 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.

These questions fuel Paul Simon’s Graceland Journey, as Berlinger captures Simon reuniting with the South African musicians whose work became the heartbeat of Graceland, as well as preparing for a 25th anniversary concert that carries profound meaning for all of them. New insights, old ghosts and the sheer exhilarating joy of raw rehearsals emerge along with revealing interviews with Simon and such musical legends as Quincy Jones, Harry Belafonte, Paul McCartney and David Byrne – who measure the breadth of Graceland’s musical, political and cultural impact.

But the soul of the film becomes an impromptu, ultimately stirring, collision:  an unanticipated meeting between Simon and the founder of Artists Against Apartheid, Dali Tambo, long an outspoken critic of Simon visiting South Africa under apartheid.  Each man has his own passionate reasons, and without taking sides, the film allows the viewer to see all the angles and come to their own conclusions — even as the music that triggered indignation and exultation comes to life again.

The critically acclaimed new film from Academy Award nominated and two-time Emmy and Peabody Award winning filmmaker Joe Berlinger (“Brother’s Keeper,” “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster,” the West Memphis Three/”Paradise Lost” trilogy) had its broadcast debut on the A&E Network last May with the title Paul Simon’s Graceland Journey: Under African Skies. It was produced by for A&E IndieFilms and Sony Music Entertainment’s Legacy Recordings, and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012. It received an Emmy Award in September, as well as major audience awards at SXSW and Cleveland Film Festivals. “The documentary…will remind many people of what they love about Graceland, the Paul Simon album whose 25th anniversary the film celebrates,” wrote Lawrence Downes in The New York Times. “Seeing it will also be a jolt for those who have forgotten the world of bitterness into which it was born….”

Paul Simon’s Graceland Journey is directed by Joe Berlinger and produced by Berlinger, Jon Kamen and Justin Wilkes.  The executive producers are Molly Thompson, Robert DeBitetto, Dave McKillop, Robert Friedman, Frank Scherma, Eddie Simon, Richard Story, Adam Block and Gil Aronow.  The cinematographer is Bob Richman and the editor is Joshua L. Pearson.

For Great Performances, Bill O’Donnell is series producer, and David Horn is executive producer.

Major funding for Great Performances is provided by the Irene Diamond Fund, the paulAnne Ray Charitable Trust, The Agnes Varis Trust, and PBS.

  • Carey Larsen

    We at WGBY were hoping to link to the preview of Graceland. Looks like wrong preview?

  • Sandra Hudson

    Same with us here at KQED in San Francisco. Don Giovanni instead??

  • Michael Gale

    Hi Paul, lets stage the play, your Graceland gem to Don G?
    - Artie.

  • Reg

    Excellent program. Is there any way I can purchase a copy of this program?

  • Jose

    Terrific episode…please let us know through Facebook when it will be shown again

  • angelique craney

    I understand completely the overwhelming power of music to heal, connect and inspire, (and make you weep). This was an inspired program. Bravo, PBS. Thank you!

  • Patti Hornberger

    As an art teacher I would love to use this film in my classes, to broaden my students’ exposure to music , to investigate the nature of human expression, shared experiences and emotion and the social responsibility of artists. That, and the sheer beauty of the people and performances this film is so inspirational and deeply moving! Thank you for this retrospective!

  • Dan

    This is the most uplifting thing I’ve seen on TV. If you appreciate music, this is a must-see.

  • Will

    WOW!!!!! Very moving.

  • Diane Birdwell

    I think I will use this in my class on student leadership— so many examples of human interaction, collaboration, politics, culture, misunderstanding and all that— with one of the most fantastic albums ever produced. THANK YOU fo rmaking this!

  • Larry Berns

    Outstanding performance by an outstanding performer.
    This shows there not be a color barrier in this world.
    BRAVO to PBS for presenting this program. This deserves acclaim.

  • joe

    Yes! Outstanding.

  • nukhet ucin

    Please let me know when I can see this concert -performance again.I missed the beginnings and I am so sad! It was so amazing and like the buy , if you like to sell it. Please present this program again.
    Thank you!

  • Greg Thrasher

    I rejected this hollow album then and now! Simon exploited the apartheid situation to Lenore hid selfish agenda I was glad when the brother from SAM put him in his place. Simon deserves no tears for his hollow boring music and tired lyrics..

    Just another white musical carpetbagger whose career was o. The rocks and as usual he pimped Black music to make a comeback . WTF

  • Greg Thrasher

    I rejected this hollow album then and now! Simon exploited the apartheid situation to push his selfish agenda . I was glad when the brother from SA put him in his place. Simon deserves nothing for his tired and hollow lyrics and boring music.

    Simon is just another white carpetbagger musician exploiting Black music to make a comeback! Great performance what a joke.

  • Geneva Hodgr

    I ENJOYED this show. I am 69 years old and grew up in the south during the 50’s & 60’s. Listening to the all the musicians tell their stories reminded me of what the power of music can do. The songs sang by the artist on the old Motown reviews that toured the south were once thought of as hollow.

  • Drew Dowdell

    Blew me away. Powerful and joyful at the same time.

  • Ed Smith

    Greg Thrasher. you are entitled to your opinion, but we all feel sorry for you. Sorry that you miss out on the joy we receive from sharing, dancing to this music. We send our sorrow that you could have listened to these interviews and watched the reception by these African audiences and still be, by whatever pain and bitterness you carry, so prejudiced as to denounce the source of the joy we all feel from these musicians.. Paul Simon included.
    May peace find you.

  • Cherie

    Saw the concert with my parents and teen aged kids. It was the best!

  • RJA

    Paul Simon is a national, no, international treasure, both musically and humanistically. The power of love and true brotherhood and MUSIC ! Wow. It’s still a wonder why such a marvelous internationally artistic accomplishment can illicit the baser responses of our lower nature instead of the “angels of our better nature”.

    Graceland turned me onto the Ladysmith Black Mambazo and new worlds, culturally and musically were opened up to me. I’m forever grateful!

  • Dean Wilson

    Sad you can not see the artistic and historical significance, except through racial bias.
    Paul did not need any career boost and certainly exploited nothing., nor no one.
    Even the good it did to help Apartheid become a historical footnote was never intended by him.
    Yet, it did become a tool in it’s abolishment. If one insists on viewing the world via political and racial eyes, they will never see the true people, only their own prejudices overlaid on good people..

  • Edna

    I saw this show in Toronto in the early 80’s. It was by far the best show I have EVER seen. Thanks for bringing back the memories. Please let me know when it will be aired again as I missed the first half

  • maggie pheasant-

    Thank you, thank you – the footage from the concert in Zimbabwe allowed us to experience the sheer joy and energy and inspiration of this coming together of the musicians. Our societies – in South Africa and the United States continue to need the energy and message of this music. KCTS and PBS is the water in the wasteland called television. You continue to educate, inform, entertain and inspire me. Bravo!

  • Kelly W

    What an excellent trip down memory lane! I’d forgotten how good this music really is. A most refreshing reminder of real selfless social activism (albeit not by the artist’s choice) that seems to be most rare today. I’m grateful for the warm fuzzy feeling from witnessing the genuine friendship and mutual respect after 25 years.

  • ar

    all looks yellow to the jaundiced eye!!!

  • ar

    thank for saying what I could not put into words…

  • michael hammond

    can’t help but get warm feelings and tears of joy when I hear this music. glad I caught this program and see the passage those people went thru to get this done. This music is universal and stands the test of time. remember how my extended family and i used to put this album on and we would hop around and dance and lift our spirits. It was really gratifying to see on tv people at various concert scenes dancing in almost the exact same way uplifting! thank you please show again or make available

  • Norma Cole

    At 3 – 4 a.m. I missed the 9 p.m. program, but it was an aweome experience. How anyone can find anything negative in this coming together of two nations through music is beyond me and simply shows them as allowing their preconceived predudices to deny them the richness of this experience. As a school teacher, I wish all students could see this production, especially those students who are musically endowed. They could be enriched by vewing the pure emotion of performing and expressing their feelings and life experiences through their music, not just for money, but for the unadulterated joy. Paul Simon provided a way to share this South African phenomenon with the world. And it was and is AWESOME! The fact that it helped to end Apartheid in South Africa is an added unepected historic bonus. Another important lesson for students–the evils of Apartheid.

  • Fe Laughlin

    When will the Paul Simon Great Performances be re-run?

  • K Coates

    This episode was incredible! I can’t say enough about it…one of the most powerful albums of my lifetime and the story of the music only enhances the music! FANTASTIC!! It took me back to the late 80’s. The power of music to bring people together is stronger than any other.

  • JC

    I loved the PBS Great Performance of Paul Simon’s Graceland Journey: Under African Skies.
    I have the Graceland album.
    I would like to purchase a DVD of the PBS Great Performance of Paul Simon’s Graceland Journey: Under African Skies. Where is it available?

  • C F Kiker

    Loved the Graceland Journey. I, too, would like a DVD for my four grandsons. They just returned a week ago from a year in Kruger Park. Their parents went to SA in 1991 for a year; ended up staying for 10 years. SA has become a part of our family. My thought is that this great performance gives so many insights into South Africa’s journey and I would like my grandsons to understand the role that the arts play in such a journey. Thanks.


    When will it be on again. I caught it by luck.
    Can we buy a dvd?

  • mamadoc

    re. Mr. Thrasher’s anger that the music was thin and and tired and hollow – aren’t you aware that the music WAS NOT his? he recorded what the African musicians were laying down in their jam sessions – that is the reason, THE reason the music was so powerful and the world in it’s exhileration – we were allowed to see and hear the South Africa of the Zulu and other tribes – we were allowed to witness their art and joy – maybe he did have a selfish agenda, I don’t know, all I know is the work opened up the power and beauty and joy of Black South Africans for me. Sometimes great consequences come from ignoble intentions.

  • lizaanne

    Wrong program here in Detroit too – was really hoping to see this, but the episode about Jewish influence on Broadway is on instead. Still a great show, but not Graceland. :-(

  • Warren Morrow

    Great program. Is it possible to purchase a DVD of the program as aired on January 5, 2013

  • Michael Doeren

    This program exposes us to how it would be to live in a perfect world. I am interested in purchasing the DVD if it is available.

  • Michael Doeren

    I have made the same request to purchase the DVD. If you connect with a source please advise.

  • Dan Tyler

    Our daughter Kirby has been on a mission trip in Uganda for 17 months working with orphans. Apartheid might be gone but injustice still goes on. Her experience and this fantastic show is an example of what one or a few people can do to influence a world in need. God Bless Paul Simon for having the spirit to make Graceland.

  • j rocheleau

    if you go to the pbs “shop” you can order this DVD…I just ordered it….FANTASTIC!!!

    does anyone know when this will air again????

  • jnappe

    I am 69 also and was transfixed by this wonderful and epic production of Paul Simon and Musicians of South Africa. I do hope to see it again. Thank you for giving this wonderful Sunday afternoon Great Performance!

  • Michael GreenGold

    01.07.2013 / Monday AM WTTWChgo > “Under African Skies” > 120 Minutes > “GRACELAND” > I Purchased GRACELAND in 1986 > “1986 Apartheid Africa” / 25th Anniv. to 2011+ > Still An Excellent Collaboration of Multiple Musical Expressions Today! > How do I purchase it with my Love Gift to PBS? > Please Respond / Thank You…

  • Paulo dos Santos

    This was a truly exceptional and inspiring film. Programming like this makes me proud to be a PBS member.

  • Catheirne Montondo

    Highly inspiring! I hope it will be up on VIDEO so that we can all be inspired by it again :)

  • Nick

    my dvr cut this off, i NEED to know when this airs again and cant figure it out, great film

  • pdmbrown

    It is not often that a program can inspire the world and put a face on a human tragedy. Paul Simon and the South African musicians showed the world their talents, and dreams. They were able to come together as musicians and close off what was happening right outside the doors and create a masterpiece that made the world stand up, listen and pay attention to the wrongs that were enforced on a race of people. The Graceland Album brought together people who were exiled from their country and gave them an opportunity to express and add to the project. This program was heart felt, encouraging and enlightening. We watch and hear daily the bad things happening in this world, but if we are honest with ourselves unless it’s in our back yard we hear it, sometimes we may do something about it, but for the most part it does not touch us.
    PBS I say good job for presenting this program to us and “GREAT JOB!!!!!!” to all of the musicians who gave us great music and showed the world how to love. PBS please air this program again and again, because it deserves that much attention. I enjoyed every minute of program and it left me wanting more.

  • kim


    Will this be shown again? Please?!


  • Beth

    I missed this show. I am wondering when it will be shown again. Thank you.

  • Mary Carol

    Just watched this and I was captivated and glued to my TV watching this. Didn’t move except to groove to the great music. Loved it all, especially the behind the scenes, creative process stuff. This is a beautiful tribute to all involved and to the power of art and music to rise above the fray and speak to the heart of the world.

  • donm

    Would you please share more of your view? I need to understand in order to heal myself. In the context of those times, was there anything a non-African could do to help the situation? Similarly, was the participation of the South Africans with Paul Simon harmful to the anti-apartheid cause?


    A wonderful presentation of hope for the world. When will it show again? Is it purchable? Thank you for Montana PBS to bring us Great Performances- Julia

  • Elsa Harris

    I would also like a copy of this film. Please let me know how to order. Elsa

  • Bernard

    you can get a copy of it from

  • Richard

    This is undoubtedly one of the best documentaries I have ever seen>

  • Maria Caruso

    I almost never watch PBS anymore just don’t have the time. Last night I sat down for a few minutes and this was on and I watched all the way until 7pm when I had to go to dinner. I am hoping it will air again locally as it was the BEST example of how we love music and how it is so inclusive. >P. S. not really a Paul Simon fan.

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