Rodriguez, Clarence Avant, Malik Bendjelloul
CONCEIVED AND DIRECTED BY
Commentaries: Malik Bendjelloul (Director), Sixto Rodriguez
Winner of the Audience Award for World Cinema Docs at this year's Sundance Film Festival along with a slew of other film festival awards, first-time filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul's Searching for Sugar Man is also quite easily one of 2012's feature documentary highlights.
Searching for Sugar Man centers around the almost unbelievable story of a Mexican-American from Detroit whose music didn't necessarily make a huge splash here in the U.S. but turned him into a legend and voice of a rebellion in the nation of South Africa in the early 1970's.
The singer's name was Rodriguez. Sound familiar?
In fact, prior to watching Searching for Sugar Man I hadn't heard of the singer myself. While I'm certainly no musical expert, it blows me away that a man with this much talent and having had this much of an impact in South Africa had never managed to slip onto my radar. As you listen to the music of Rodriguez, it's impossible to not wonder why his music never quite caught on in this country despite the singer having an almost mythical reputation in Detroit. Rodriguez's music permeates every cell of this film, and his sound and vibe give off social justice vibes like Dylan while possessing an electricity not far removed from The Beatles of The Rolling Stones or other acts that did explode here in the U.S.
The film also benefits from camera work by Camilla Skagerstrom that is nothing short of amazing and beautiful and the perfect meditative counterpart to Rodriguez's music. Searching for Sugar Man starts off with a bit of mystery as a South African rock journalist and a record store owner decide to join forces to find out what happened to their musical idol, a man whose myth was so large that rumors went all the way to a rumored dramatic suicide.
The truth itself is pretty awesome, though certainly won't be revealed here as Bendjelloul does an excellent job of entertaining while constructing a compelling and involving story that far transcends the usual "behind-the-scenes" drivel that we usually get from these musical documentaries.
Searching for Sugar Man was picked up by Sony Classics for a limited nationwide run, and is already experiencing quite a bit of success with its remarkable music soundtrack, emotionally resonant story and visuals that will simply blow you away in the most entertaining of ways.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic