Searching for Sugar Man

Note: Because I don’t want to lessen this documentary’s impact, this is spoiler free. As a result, my analysis isn’t as specific as I would like it to be. However what my review lacks in detail you will gain in enjoyment when you watch the film. And I beseech you, please watch this film. It should be noted these surprises can easily be discovered by casual research regarding the subject. Therefore avoid all articles (except this one of course).

PhotobucketTwo aficionados endeavor to discover what became of their favorite recording artist. Rodriguez was an American singer-songwriter from Detroit who released two albums: “Cold Fact” in 1970 and “Coming from Reality” in 1971. Both flopped in the U.S. Maybe it was the songs’ highly politicized message, the pervasive drug references, a failure of marketing or perhaps something else altogether. Why Rodriguez never connected with the American public is a question one may ask any entertainer of undeniable ability. His fate is not unlike the thousands of other talents who never make it. Except this tale is notably different. “Cold Fact” found its way into Cape Town, South Africa where it was warmly accepted by progressive Afrikaners rebelling against the government. Bootleg copies were made and spread rapidly amongst white South Africans who embraced his music as a soundtrack for the anti-apartheid movement. Yet these fans knew little about their idol’s life. One rumor claimed that he’d ended it by committing suicide on stage by setting himself ablaze.

The film’s narrative focuses more on the quest of two South African fans to make sense of what happened to this musical icon rather than in shedding light on the man himself. The search was spearheaded by an indie record store owner named Stephen Segerman and an investigative journalist Craig Bartholomew-Strydom back in the late 90s. Along the way we‘re treated to a generous helping of Rodriguez’ work. It becomes a saga of how a performer’s legacy can touch the lives of their listeners in ways they may never know. Rodriguez’ blend of folk and funk with a side of country seemed to fit perfectly within the psychedelic landscape of the early 70s. Bob Dylan is an obvious influence. If you enjoy his style of music, this soundtrack is a must.

Searching for Sugar Man presents an inspiring tale of one Sixto Diaz Rodriguez. He remains an enigmatic mystery even by the end of the feature. His face constantly shrouded by large sunglasses and a mane of black hair. It spoils nothing to say the two fans featured do ultimately uncover the truth. As promised, the unexpected developments will not be revealed here. The documentary can be seen as a meditation on the unpredictable tastes of the masses. Why musicians can sell millions of records in one country and be virtually ignored in another. Rodriguez story is a fascinating one. This is a movie for anyone who has ever toiled in obscurity doing something they loved without recognition or success. An uplifting docudrama that celebrates the joy of a human life.

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17 Responses to “Searching for Sugar Man”

  1. Argh! I’m not a patient person. Just tell me, I won’t tell anyone else ;) Great review (you tease). I will definitely have to check this out. Thanks for the heads up.

  2. Great review, Mark :) Based on the recommendations from you and Arcturus & Kate from MGCTv, I’ll have to check this out if I get a chance.

  3. Sounds very interesting. Great review.

  4. Glad you loved it too Mark! As you can tell from our podcast – we were totally touched by this film. Your review very eloquently describes some things we couldn’t! its in my top 5 of the year already! Will it make your list???

    • It will definitely make my list, but Top 5? Probably not. I’ve seen some incredible films already this year. Even among documentaries, I’d rate The Imposter higher. With that said, I really did love this. Thanks for the recommendation!

  5. Nice review. I’ve heard a lot about this one and am waiting for this one to come to the local theater.

  6. I was surprised by how recent this film was; I hadn’t even heard of it until I read your (fantastic) review. Maybe it’s because of the area I live in. I’ve seen quite a few documentaries in my lifetime, but the only documentary I’ve ever seen was March of the Penguins in 2005 (yeah it was an incredibly memorable experience for me at seven or eight years old). I live in a suburban area, where about five theaters are situated within 25 miles of my house, none of which are “art theaters”, so it’s a rarity that I ever get a documentary playing near me.

    I’ll definitely check this out when it hits home video. You gave enough detail, albeit truncated to reduce the risk of spoiling the film, to have me hooked. I’ll definitely stay posted for the home video release. Thanks again Mark. :)

  7. Very intriguing…
    Sounds like this is one to definitely track down

  8. Great review. I want to see this one; you’ve piqued my interest!

  9. It’s coming to my city!:) I’m soo excited! Here’s the trailer btw: http://www.searchingforsugarman.com

  10. I’m going to hold off reading your whole review until after I watch this one, but as usual, your review is insightful. This is just such a remarkable story, both the man of the movie and the man who made the movie. Inspirations come from unusual places..

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