Movie review: Searching for Sugar Man directed by Malik Bendjelloul

Release date: 2012
Directed by : Malik Bendjelloul
Genre: documentary


What do you need to become a world-wide famous musician? A good voice? A talent? A great personality? Agents who believe in you ? A guitar?  Sixto Rodriguez had it all. Even now his songs really resonate with inner beauty – their lyrics are deep and sad, their music makes you want to sing along and rock. Back in the seventies they must have been like a lightning and thunder. Only they weren’t.

 His first longplay record was released in 1970. It should have launched Rodriguez on a brilliant career, allowing him to go to the very top, among  Jimi Hendrix, Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, The Beatles. Somehow it didn’t.  Maybe because of his Latino name. Maybe because he lived in Detroit. Maybe because he was not a showman. Overall he released two albums: Cold Fact and Coming From Reality; then his company, Sussex Recordings, dropped him off the label and he disappeared from the scene.  Some people claimed he committed a suicide during a flop concert. Some people said he overdosed drugs in a prison. Nobody really knew anything.

 However one of his vinyl records somehow found its way to the Republic of South Africa and it became a big hit there. People simply adored Rodriguez – his albums were sold in millions of copies and his songs were being listened to everywhere. However his South African fans knew nothing, literally nothing, about the singer they loved so much, not even the most basic facts. Small wonder some of them decided to look for him and solve the mystery surrounding his persona. Who was he? What was his real name? Did he have a family, a wife, children? What really happened to him? This documentary is about their incredible search for the truth about Rodriguez and a career which never was.

My impressions:

I completely agree – this documentary deserves and Oscar. It is an incredible story, told in an engaging way, illustrated with great music, sad and uplifting at the same time. What’s more, it is not fiction. 

Still the best thing about this movie is a message it conveys: no matter what your job is if you do it the right way you are not wasting your time – you are creating something special and worthwhile.  You’re an artist. Perhaps you won’t be able to reap the rewards of your efforts immediately, maybe not even during your lifetime, which is of course very sad, but still you’ve done something good which might have a positive influence over people living in a country you’ve never visited in a way nobody can predict. There is never enough positive influence around, right?

I really don’t have much more to say  apart from this: go (or order) and see this movie. You won’t regret it.

Final verdict:

An incredible documentary; a must for all 70’s music fans but I recommend it to everybody.

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8 Responses to Movie review: Searching for Sugar Man directed by Malik Bendjelloul

  1. heidenkind says:

    Fame seems so random sometimes, doesn't it? This sounds like an inspirational story, and I do love music from the '70s, so I will see if my library has this movie. Thanks!Btw, have you read this piece about another forgotten songwriter from the '60s? Really interesting:

  2. It is a very inspirational story with a twist. I strongly recommend you see it, Tasha and thanks for the link – will visit for sure!

  3. Blodeuedd says:

    Bleh..but I am sure my dad would love this movie

  4. red witch says:

    The story about Tandyn is sad, a little like Sid Barrett, but at least he was happy in his lifetime. I am glad to see there was a happy ending for Rodriguez.

  5. Yes, it was a happy ending. Still I couldn't help thinking that he missed a great opportunity.

  6. Wally Howe says:

    After watching this documentary, I've come to refer to Sixto Rodriguez as the star that never was. I'm not undermining his accomplishments in South Africa, but rather still left in disbelief that his music wasn't as accepted in the US. His songs resonated everyday stories that anyone could relate to. I was glad that his loyal fans wanted to find answers to the mystery surrounding an icon, so that the rest of us wouldn't be deprived of such an amazing story. –Wally

  7. It was an amazing story indeed – one of these which can motivate you to carry on even if your life sucks…thanks for your comment, Wally!

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