Searching for Sugar Man
Heartwarming documentary about a 1970s US musician and his rise to fame in South Africa
Some documentaries hook you right from the start. Malik Bendjelloul’s Searching For Sugar Man does just this, introducing us to the remarkable story of Sixto Rodriguez with the nugget that the Detroit-born 70s folk musician set himself on fire on stage and killed himself. Admittedly, it sets us up for a fall – suggesting that the little-known Rodriguez is going to be another tragic diva who died, like his contemporaries Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, before his time.
What emerges is a story so much richer. While his two albums Cold Fact and Coming From Reality flopped in the US and Europe, in Apartheid-blighted South Africa they went platinum. Bendjelloul lets the story unfold from the South African perspective, led by the two fans – music writer Craig Bartholomew and record store owner Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman – who instigated a search into Rodriguez’s background, only to find, contrary to popular belief, that he was alive and well. What follows is a story as heart-warming as it is genuine, as the humble Rodriguez gets his long overdue recognition on a triumphant return to South Africa.
Selected release from Thu 26 Jul.