Searching for Sugar Man (2012)

9.0 Overall Score

A nice tale of how life can really surprise you


Movie Info

Movie Name:  Searching for Sugar Man

Studio:  Red Box Film

Genre(s):  Documentary

Release Date(s):  January 19, 2012 (Sundance)/July 27, 2012 (US)

MPAA Rating:  PG-13


The legendary Rodriguez…?

South Africa has some heroes…heroes that fought against Apartheid like the famous American singer Rodriguez…who no one in America knows.  When a group of South Africans decide to research their legendary singer, they find the events of his death are greatly exaggerated and that he is still alive and well.  The events that follow are globe crossing search for a man who is a hero to some but unknown to most…and a trip of a lifetime to a singer that never was.

Directed by Malik Bendjelloul, Searching for Sugar Man was met by highly positive reviews.  The documentary’s story received audience and jury awards at Sundance for Best International Documentary and received the Oscar for Best Feature Documentary.


A concert of a lifetime

The story of Searching for Sugar Man is a rather uplifting one.  The movie starts out by telling you about Rodriguez…someone who means so much to the people in South Africa.  Here however Sixto Rodriguez never made any waves when his albums were released and he’s continued to live a normal, if not hard, life in Detroit, Michigan as his fame and legends of his death grow and grow in South Africa.  The realization that the singer is alive, leads to a search and almost a reward for the singer.  Rodriguez finds how loved he is for his music and what it means to people…and it doesn’t go to his head.  The movie almost plays like a fairy tale and it has a lot of fairy tale qualities.  It has a hero returning from the dead on one side and a man discovering he’s a prince on the other side.

The movie also has a great look.  It mixes interviews, animated sequences, and footage to tell the story.  What is really amazing is that portions of the film were shot on an iPhone using an app to simulate vintage camera footage.  The embracing of other technology and other mediums almost goes along with the story being told.


Stylized animation used to recreate certain establishing shots and events

I find it amusing how hard it is for the people in South Africa to find Sugar Man when it appears he is hiding in plain sight.  The reason however is that it shows how much technology has changed over the years.  The majority of the search takes place around 1997 where the internet was just booming.  Now, a guy in South Africa could have just Googled Sixto Rodriguez and probably found him or even just e-mailed someone in the U.S. to ask about a town call “Dearborn” from Rodriguez’s lyrics that helped the searchers track him down.

Searching for Sugar Man is a nice documentary.  There isn’t any controversy (ok, the record producer gets a bit offended in an interesting segment where the filmmakers try to find out where all the money from Rodriguez’s sales have gone), and it tells a good positive story about a man who from all accounts is the model of someone who has discovered there are miracles in life…they sought out Sugar Man and so should you.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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