A surprising story and dramatic storytelling makes SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN documentary to remember
Hearing the music of ‘70s rock musician Rodriguez for the first time in filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul’s fascinating and rousing documentary Searching For Sugar Man, is an uplifting experience, and yet, that’s only part of the amazing story.
After a fading music career beset by poor record sales and rumors of his death, bootleg copies of his U.S. albums makes the Detroit-based Rodriguez an unexpected superstar in South Africa. Bendjelloul travels throughout South Africa to find the mystery behind Rodriguez’s growing South African fan base and his journey leads him to an unbelievable revelation and the most unusual comeback in music history.
Making his feature-length filmmaking debut after directing a series of acclaimed short documentaries, Bendjelloul creates Searching For Sugar Man as a road trip story, a true-life mystery, a musical doc and a concert film. It’s a dizzy combination but Bendjelloul and cinematographer Camilla Skagerström pull it off brilliantly thanks to topnotch storytelling, heartfelt interviews, stunning photography and their once-in-a-lifetime subject.
In addition to celebrating Rodriguez’s music, Searching For Sugar Man also puts the spotlight on Malik Bendjelloul and introduces him to specialty audiences always hungry for the next film masters.
In fact, Bendjelloul deserves extra acclaim for his work on Searching For Sugar Man due to his long and untiring commitment to Rodriguez’s story. Bendjelloul also handles editing duties in addition to directing, so the swift pace and compelling nature of the movie speaks to his storytelling talents.
Four years working alone and without pay are the prices novice director Malik Bendelloul makes in order to tell the “best story he ever heard in his life,” the tale of Rodriguez, a forgotten, believed dead ‘70s rock musician from Detroit who became an accidental superstar in South Africa without his knowledge. Now, the problem with discovering the best story ever is making a movie equally good.
Bendjelloul touches upon all the distinct genres of biography filmmaking by emphasizing his journey of discovery as much as his little-known subject. Bendjelloul’s excitement as he learns more and more about Rodriguez is evident throughout the movie. It’s also an excitement shared by audiences as Searching For Sugar Man reaches its heart-pounding climax.
Interviews with Rodriguez’s past colleagues and friends as well as his new generation of fans help make the film complete, balanced and in-depth in the story of a forgotten Rock musician, who clearly, deserves a fate better than anonymity.
Searching For Sugarman is about more than Rodriguez’s soulful music. It’s about the heroism behind an artist’s perseverance, the tragedy of a career derailed and the uplifting spirit surrounding an artist receiving deserved recognition and acclaim – even in the most unusual circumstances imaginable.
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Director: Malik Bendjelloul
Cinematographer: Camilla Skagerström
Editor: Malik Bendjelloul
Producers: Red Box Films, Passion Pictures, Canfield Pictures
Running Time: 85 minutes
Rating: Rated PG-13
Release Date: August 2012