Fascinating Documentary Earns Its OSCAR
SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN (2012/ DVD) Ever heard of a musician named Rodriguez? Me neither until I watched this wonderful 90-minute documentary from Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul who apparently has a calling for producing films about musicians. Who knew? This one begins in South Africa with fans of a U.S. singer/songwriter/guitarist named Sixto Rodriguez, a mysterious performer from Detroit who put out two albums in the early 70s. Both were critical hits but neither made the charts. In fact, both of them bombed big-time and Rodriguez “disappeared” like so many others before and after him. Come to find out, bootleg copies of those albums, especially the first one entitled “Cold Fact,” found their way to South Africa and became rallying cries for the young white “hippies” who were ready to over-throw Apartheid. Of course, all those young fans in South Africa assumed that Rodriguez was a huge rock star, equal to Bob Dylan, the Stones and others. Eventually they heard wild stories about the singer dying—setting himself on fire—shooting himself on stage following the rejection of his latest songs.
Finally, in the late 1990s, two Cape Town fans–Stephen ‘Sugar” Segerman and Craig Bartholmew Strydom–decided to find out what really happened to their hero. This documentary follows their efforts and cleverly makes us pursue the trail along with them, sharing in their discoveries that turned out to be nothing short of fabulous. Even if you find the start of the film a little hard to follow, don’t worry. You’ll be rewarded as you stick with this tale—maybe you already know the ending. I won’t spoil it here. But let’s just say….Mr. Rodriguez might just be performing in your town soon!
P.S. Here’s a Wikipedia fun fact for you film fans. “Initially using 8 mm film to record some scarce, stylized shots for the movie, director Bendjelloul ran out of money for more film to record the final few shots. He resorted to filming the remaining stylized shots on his smartphone using an iPhone app called 8mm Vintage Camera to complete the film.” Cool….