Searching for Sugar Man

Sometimes films made from true stories are more incredible than those that come from human imagination.  This is one that is too crazy to be made up.

Searching for Sugar Man is a documentary made about the search for the 70s musician Rodriguez.  The things/rumours that cropped up around this performer are hard to believe.  A man who recorded two albums that made no impression in the United States, but made him a superstar in South Africa.  He never learned of this success because at this point he was already out of the music industry and working as a labourer in construction.

Rodriguez was discovered in a small, smoky bar in Detroit back in the early 1970s.  Two record producers were amazed by what they heard and believed they had the next Bob Dylan.  He signed a record deal and began to make an album.  The album bombed and so did his next.  Just before Christmas his record label dropped him while he was in the midst of making his third album.  That was all she wrote for Rodriguez in the U.S.  He disappeared from the music scene.

A bootleg copy of Rodriguez’s first album made it all the way to South Africa, which was under the rule of apartheid at the time.  Rodriguez’s music spoke to South Africans and over the next twenty years he became a huge star.  His music inspired people who believed that apartheid was an abomination.  His album sales were right up there with Michael Jackson.  In South Africa they had no idea who this guy was.  They heard a number of rumours about him including that he shot himself in the head on stage or set himself on fire on stage.  What the rumours all had in common was that Rodriguez was dead.

Two South African men, a fan and a journalist, began a search for the man whose music moved a nation.  The two began a search for what really happened to their music hero.

The documentary by Malik Bendjelloul made its mark wherever it was shown.  It won a Special Jury Prize World Cinema – Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, an Audience Award World Cinema – Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival and an Audience Award Best Documentary at the L.A. Film Fest as well as being named an Official Selection at the Tribeca Film Festival.  This means that movie goers and critics alike loved it.

As inspirational as his music was is as moving as this documentary is.  Constructed through interviews, photos, music, live performance footage, and home videos the story hits close to home showing that the music industry is a tough gig.  Someone with plenty of talent could not make it in the country he lived in and was forced to work performing hard labour to support his family.  Amazingly he was famous in a country on the other side of the world and he never really knew it.  Sad as he could have had the music career he so obviously was suited for.

Probably the most amazing part of this incredible story is how unfazed Rodriguez seems about the whole thing.  He does not seem bitter about what happened or that other people might have made some money off his music.  Through all this he seems happy in life and still loves music.  Instead of feeling completely sad about a talented man who missed his chance you end up leaving the film with a happy feeling.

Special Features:

-Making Sugar Man

-An Evening with Malik Bendjelloul and Rodriguez

-Searching for Sugar Man Soundtrack

-Theatrical Trailer

-Previews of Sony Blu-ray Disc, Frank and Robot, Neil Young: Journeys, Celeste and Jesse Forever, Rust and Bone, Smashed

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