Storyville

Searching for Sugar Man

Malik Bendjelloul (2011)

82min
12A Certificate
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Review

Our Score
For the uninitiated, Detroit musician Sixto Rodriguez released two albums at the beginning of the 1970s that set out his stall as a Dylanesque psych-folkie with a social conscience. Although critically lauded, his records failed to sell and he was dropped from his label, and from there he faded into obscurity. So went his story in the US, but, as this documentary reveals, his anti-establishment songs struck a chord in Apartheid-era South Africa - so much so that he became, according to one interviewee here, bigger than Elvis and the Stones. With his legendary status came stories of a rock 'n' roll death (self-immolation, blowing his brains out on stage etc), but further digging by two South Africans, a journalist and a record-store owner, toward the end of the 1990s revealed otherwise. Rodriguez's story is described by one who was there as "too strange to be true", and Malik Bendjelloul's film is certainly an intriguing mix of detective drama and fairy tale. It's just a shame that the enigmatic man at its centre is such a vague, fleeting presence - for the most part it is left to his songs, family and co-workers to speak for him. Make no mistake, the story of Sixto Rodriguez is an incredible one, but you can't help feeling that something has been lost in this telling.

Summary

The Oscar-winning documentary tells the story of the American rock icon, Detroit-based singer Sixto Rodriguez. At the outset of his career in the late 1960s he was briefly hailed as one of the finest recording artists of his generation - but his album bombed, and he disappeared into oblivion amid rumours of a gruesome on-stage suicide. A bootleg recording, however, found its way into South Africa during apartheid, becoming a phenomenon, and two devoted fans turned detective to find out what really happened to their hero. The film is directed by the late Malik Bendjelloul.

Cast & Crew

Director Malik Bendjelloul

Other Information

Language: EnglishColourTheatrical distributor: Studio CanalGuidance: Swearing.Available on: DVD and Blu-rayReleased on: 27 Jul 2012
Documentary