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Searching For Sugar Man

Searching For Sugar Man

Released 27 July 2012
Director Malik Bendjelloul
Cast Rodriguez, Malik Bendjelloul
Producer(s) Simon Chinn
Origin Sweden, United Kingdom
Running Time 86 minutes
Genre Documentary
Rating TBC

I wonder.

The music industry is one fickle business. You could be the most talented artist in the world and nobody will take notice while someone else, who perhaps lacks natural ability but boasts other qualities such as looks and personality, earns widespread acclaim. Many musicians come and go, often unnoticed, and it is for this reason that Searching for Sugar Man is perhaps one of the most inspiring true stories in entertainment.

In the early 1970s, a singer-songwriter called Sixto Rodriguez was tipped by big-time record labels to be the next huge thing. He was credited with having more talent and charisma than Elvis or The Beatles and his career was supposed to be a bombardment of success, riches and endorsements. But for some reason, in America, he flopped. However, halfway around the other side of the world in South Africa, something special was just getting started. The struggle against apartheid was gathering momentum and somehow Rodriguez’ failed albums were becoming the anthems of the movement. The only problem was, with censorship rife in the country, nobody knew who Rodriguez actually was and, thousands of miles away, he himself didn’t even realise he had become a superstar. Fast forward a quarter of a century and two South Africans try and find out whatever happened to the hero that created the gospel of their people.

I cannot speak highly enough of this documentary. A powerful example of perfect storytelling, the unique tale of Rodriguez is actually rather unbelievable, in the literal sense of the word, and one that could probably never even be dreamt of happening again. The film is almost an album in itself, playing all of Rodriguez’ songs as a backdrop firstly to his own life, then subsequently to the endeavour of the South African people.

For anybody, this will provide a thoroughly enjoyable journey, but for wannabe musicians who believe that nothing is possible, Searching for Sugar Man is an inspiration to the strange and wonderful things that can happen. It would be a shame to miss out.

- David Caulfield