The most enlightening comments in the film are the ones from the African musicians themselves. Through the controversy during the original 1987 Graceland tour, they behaved with courage consistent with life under the apartheid state. At one point during the European part of the tour, the musicians were ordered by the ANC to return to South Africa. This enraged guitarist Ray Phiri, who told ANC representatives, “I am a victim of apartheid. It is not possible to victimize the victim twice!”
Simon states several times that he would not have been able to stand up to the constant pressure of protests and some cases of violence from organizations that insisted Simon was aiding apartheid, during the tour without the strength of Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba, both exiled from South Africa.
Simon presents his defense from the standpoint that artists have the right to be “independent from politicians.” In response to criticism from the ANC that “you didn’t check with us,” Simon retorts, “Is that the kind of government you’re going to be? Will you check our lyrics? . . . Like so many others who f**k the artists?”
Belafonte is cited several times during the film. While he praises the music of Graceland, he attempts to express Simon’s position “that the artist is supreme and to go to any one group to beg the right of passage was against his instinct.”
Recent events in South Africa demonstrate that a critical and historical approach is required. Leaders of the ANC, including Dali Tambo, whose rapprochement with Simon is a keynote of the documentary, have become wealthy and part of the new South African establishment, which is determined to ruthlessly defend its interests.
The controversy over the cultural boycott of South Africa has apparently dissipated. Yet those who are eager to embrace Simon today and “let bygones be bygones” now have blood on their hands. The apartheid state has been gone since 1994, but the struggle between classes rages on, not only in South Africa, but globally.
The boycott demand received support from millions around the world seeking a way to smash the apartheid regime. As far as the ANC was concerned, however, it was a means of regulating the struggle, seeking to mobilize liberal public opinion and pressure the major powers to isolate the regime, while preparing to replace it with a government equally committed to capitalist property and imperialist domination.
It's the 25th anniversary of Graceland, by the way. It won the Grammy for Album of the Year and the title song won Record of the Year.
Paul Simon is no relation to Carly Simon for any who wonder. Like Carly, he is a singer-songwriter. Like Carly, he achieved early success with a partner. But whereas The Simon Sisters (Lucy and Carly Simon) had a hit with "Winkin, Blinkin' and Nod" and were a regional live act, Simon & Garfunkel were international superstars (Art Garfunkel -- Art sang lead on most of the songs, Paul wrote most of the songs). In the 70s, the act broke up and Paul, like Carly, was a solo artist. The hits continued with "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" and "One Trick Pony" among other songs.
Aside from music (and Paul's considered a gifted songwriter), Paul's best known for being the ex-husband of Carrie Fisher and for playing the music producer who romances Diane Keaton out from underneath Woody Allen in Annie Hall.
Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"