Searching for Sugar Man
2012
***
Director: Malik Bendjelloul
Cast:

Sixto Rodriguez, a Mexican American singer-songwriter from Detroit, released two well-reviewed but poorly received albums in the early 1970s, and subsequently vanished from the music scene. Unbeknownst to him, the first album Cold Fact (1970) became a massive hit in South Africa, where the fans were shocked to learn that the disillusioned artist had committed suicide. Malik Bendjelloul’s Academy Award winning documentary tells the story of two South African men who in the pre-internet era attempted to find out who Rodriguez was and where he came from. This search is fascinating; the discovery, not so much. The first half offers a rare glimpse into apartheid-governed white South Africa, and tells a sad tale about the fleeting nature of fame and success. The sentimental second half turns the feel-good factor up to eleven; the film paints Rodriguez as a saint-like figure and becomes a somewhat self-congratulatory celebration of his rediscovery. I cannot help but be reminded of Anvil! The Story of Anvil. Their songs had less substance, but their story had more grit.