At Heartland Film Festival I was lucky enough to see Under African Skies, a documentary about the making of Paul Simon’s Graceland album.
Now, I have to say I’m totally a fan of this album. I know the lyrics and rhythm of every song. It’s been on rotation in my itunes and on my cassette/CD player since 1986. This album introduced me to Ladysmith Black Mambazo who I adore and who makes me cry with their strong and unique harmonies and a cappella sound. I went though a period of time trying to get every Ladysmith album available on cassette, many of them I wore out.
In the documentary Joseph Shabalala, the lead in Ladysmith Black Mambazo said “Music is like prayer.” It was such a simple statement but I can’t stop thinking about it. As a filmmaker, I’m almost jealous of this. Because it’s true.
I remember listening to Homeless on the Graceland album. I didn’t know what in the world the African lyrics translated to but I felt it. I felt the struggle, I felt the compassion, I felt the suffering. It moved me.
Music regardless of the lyrics it does feel like a shared prayer. A shared moment. A shared emotion.
I wish film could be like this. I think some films can but it hasn’t always been my experience. Films are still very subjective, certain films hit people in different ways. We relate to different aspects of our lives to a film. A certain character can remind of a friend or family.
But a song…when you watch a crowd singing along to a song there is near same expression of joy or sadness on the audience faces. It’s very much like watching a congregation in prayer. A unity. A brotherhood. It’s magical.
Music as prayer did make me think of a one film I made called “First They Came for..” I’ve heard people say that the film is Art or Poetry but maybe, maybe it’s a prayer. This is the closest I’ve gotten to making a film a prayer. I think I have more work to do.
Trailer for Under African Skies
Homeless by Ladysmith Black Mambazo
First They Came for