Searching for Sugar Man is absolute definitive proof that one does not require a big money budget to tell an amazing story on film.
The winner of the World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary and the winner of the Special Jury Prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, Searching for Sugar Man opened the Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews and has not looked back since.
In what is probably one of the most heart-warming true stories to grace the screen in the past decade, first time Swedish filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul has scored a ten with his brilliant documentary.
While traveling in search of an idea for story, Bendjelloul uncovered the story of Rodriguez, a virtually unknown American recording artist who had long since been forgotten in the United States and unbeknownst to him had been revered over the past thirty years as a music icon and legend in South Africa. In South Africa, he was considered as popular as The Rolling Stones and Elvis.
The story follows the trail of Steve Segerman, a South African music fan and record store proprietor who was intrigued by the mystery surrounding the reported rumors of Rodriguez’s death years ago.
Through a bit of successful amateur sleuthing, Segerman was shocked to find out that Rodriguez was actually still alive and living in the Detroit area.
As a result of efforts put forth by Segerman and others, Rodriguez was finally able to witness the adoration of two generations of South African music fans who were astounded to hear that one of their heroes had virtually risen from the dead. Rodriguez’s music is credited with spiriting and inspiring the anti-apartheid movement that eventually helped end decades of racial segregation, censorship, and violence in South Africa.
Rodriguez’s daughters, who had been blessed a compassionate and philosophical father, were able to travel to South Africa and witness an entire country’s adoration for their father’s music and iconic mysterious persona.
The film subtly touches on the long-standing swept-under-the-carpet corruption that has plagued the music industry for years. Instead of focusing on the years of lost potential income and fame that could have been bestowed upon Rodriguez, the film in turn celebrates the eventual triumph of a singer/songwriter who graciously receives his well deserved accolades after toiling through a minimalists existence in the rundown streets of Detroit.
A musically talented individual rich in philosophy, wisdom, and perspective, Rodriguez and his songs have been touted as rivaling the poetic depth of Bob Dylan. Even after forty years his words, imagery and music are still engaging and thought provoking.
The soundtrack to the film is comprised of some of Rodriguez’s best work. In uncovering a lost and found music legend, Malik Bendjelloul has not only set the bar high for his own future endeavors, but he has offered the world a second chance to witness the timeless artistry of Rodriguez.