aka: Sugar Man, The Only One Who Did Not Know
Director: Malik Bendjelloul
Starring: Stephen “Sugar” Segerman, Rodriguez, Dennis Coffey, Clarence Avant, Mike Theodore
Long time, no see, Rodriguez!
Sixto Rodriguez was a working class man who tried to make it in the music industry in the 70’s, but fell off into obscurity after his two first albums didn’t do well in the US. Even if he stayed unknown in his home country though, he did receive a lot of praise and fame in other parts of the world, especially in South Africa where he became a household name.
Rodriguez himself though was never made aware of his popularity in that country. Nobody in South Africa knew why he had disappeared though and it was even rumoured that he had committed suicide. In the 1990’s, a few fans started to investigate what had really happened to their favorite artist and their discovery of Rodriguez being fully alive would change the life of both them and also Rodriguez forever.
Searching for Sugar Man delivers a charming sunshine story of the outcast folk singer Rodriguez. Even if the story itself is pretty remarkable, the filmmakers and the interview subjects all make sure to play it up as much as they can. It is also interesting that they skipped the fact that Rodriguez in fact did tour Australia in the 80’s, as that does prove that he had gained some type of fame for his two albums.
But even if it does skip some important facts, it is a documentary that are primarily made to show that dreams can come true and that you should never give ut your dream. The first part of the documentary tells the story on the importance Rodriguez had on the South African society and why the fans wanted to seek out what had happened to the musician. Even though this is told several years after the fans actually found Rodriguez, the interview subjects are as passionate in telling their story now as they would be back when they where still on the hunt.
The second part shows how Rodriguez handled this new-found fame and also shows how he was welcomed when he finally arrived in South Africa to have a tour. It was a nice touch to save the main character of the documentary until the second part as it keeps the viewer also wondering what happened to the talented songwriter.
It also works better since Rodriguez himself isn’t that much of a talker and it’s better to still keep some mystique about the odd singer than fully focus on him and let him speak for the entire documentary. And it really is the excitement of the fans that makes this documentary that much fun, as Rodriguez himself is not all that interesting and sorry to say – that talented of a musician.
The film is created by the swedish director Malik Bendjelloul. The lack of finances made it so hard to finish this documentary that he even had to resolve to filming with an iPhone app called 8mm Vintage Camera to finish the film. The excitement that was brought in to this project is great and it’s sad that he didn’t have the financial support to go even deeper into the story and the influence Rodriguez’s music had on the South African culture.
Searching for Sugar Man is both an inspiring and touching story. It’s filled with enthusiasm and charm that overshadows the fact that the documentary still does feel a bit unfinished. It has gotten a lot of well deserved praise, even scoring itself an Academy Award for best documentary feature and it is a film well worth seeing.