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Plot: In the early 1970s, Sixto Rodriguez was a Detroit folksinger who had a short-lived recording career with only two well received but non-selling albums. Unknown to Rodriguez, his musical story continued in South Africa where he became a pop music icon and inspiration for generations. Long rumored there to be dead by suicide, a few fans in the 1990s decided to seek out the truth of their hero's fate. What follows is a bizarrely heartening story in which they found far more in their quest than they ever hoped, while a Detroit construction laborer discovered that his lost artistic dreams came true after all. Runtime: 86 mins Release Date: 25 Jul 2012
The Landmark Theatre in West LA is a tough crowd but they were laughing and crying and when it was over they were applauding. This is what movie magic is all about. I wandered in and was blown away. Where can I get the soundtrack?? Holy! Crap!! Sixto is what Dylan could have been. That's right he's better than Bob. Better writer, better vocalist by tenfold. Unlike The Jester this guy never sold out and walked the talk until the bitter end. I've always believed the world's best talent goes unrecognized most of the time but the story of Sixto Rodriguez puts that theory into the <more>
"true" category once and for all and I will never doubt it again. Please recognize this man's work! Hopefully his daughters will continue to work toward that end both in the USA and South Africa.
I'm going to add my voice such as it is to the chorus of accolades for "Searching For Sugar Man". I loved it. It is indeed an incredible true story about a folk singer named Rodriquez who became a sensation in South Africa while remaining in obscurity in his native US. He's not the first person to be given the boot in his hometown the Bible has something to say on this subject but upon listening to the wonderful soundtrack of this film it is a sad commentary. There's plenty of humor here as well in this tale of parallel universes: one in which Rodriquez is Elvis and <more>
another where he's scarcely a blip on the radar. The film begins as an investigation by curious fans seeking to learn about the whereabouts of Rodriquez and what may have happened to him. The stories circulating about him are not promising but they are undaunted and continue to search for answers. I think everyone who sees "Searching For Sugar Man" will be thankful that they did.
One of the most bizarre true stories in the history of popular music (by wizface)
Who would know that an unknown album from an unknown artist in 1970 Rodriguez would become a huge phenomenon in South Africa? As big as say, Paul McCartney. Rodriguez himself was never aware of his huge success, as well as most other Americans. This film traces two hardcore fans as they trace clues around the globe trying to find out what happened to this man. Did he commit a gruesome suicide as rumors say? If so, when and where? Almost nothing was known of this mystery man. The film unfolds a story that cannot be believed by any party. Not the South Africans, nor the filmmakers, or any <more>
member of the Rodriquez family. A story that you would swear would not be possible in this day and age of digital communications.
An odyssey of discovery, even self-discovery (by howard.schumann)
Sixto Rodriguez, a little known American folk-rock singer/songwriter in the tradition of Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens, released two albums in the early 1970s, Cold Fact, and Coming From Reality but failed to achieve any popularity. Though praised by critics, his haunting songs about love and loss, drugs and politics, such as "I Wonder," "Cause," and "Sugar Man" should have been hits, but, for some reason, were not. After a minor tour in Australia that brought neither success nor recognition, he was dropped from his record label and was not publicly heard from <more>
again.Winner of the Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, Swedish filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul's moving documentary Searching for Sugar Man investigates the life of Rodriguez who grew up in a run-down working class area of Detroit, Michigan and worked mostly as a manual laborer, singing at night in small, smoke-filled bars. A friend who remembers him at the time says, "There was something mysterious about him. He looked like a drifter." The film demonstrates Rodriguez' striking presence using a mix of songs, interviews with those who knew him or knew about him, animation, and archival photos.Though no one knows exactly how, his albums somehow made their way to South Africa and circulated among white Afrikaans musicians. All of this led to a growing mystique about an artist that no one knew anything about. Rumors began to circulate that, during an unsuccessful concert, he shot himself in the head or died from a drug overdose, but no one knew for sure how he died. The film begins when Cape Town record shop owner and music fan Stephen Segerman, whose nickname "Sugar Man" mirrors one of Rodriguez' most famous songs, meets music journalist Craig Bartholomew-Strydom and the two undertake to investigate what had happened to him.We find out that his album Cold Fact was distributed on a small South African label, that one of his songs, Sugar Man, was banned on the government-run radio station for its drug references, and that the anti-establishment lyrics of his songs such as The Establishment Blues struck a responsive chord with the growing student involvement in the anti-apartheid movement, and led indirectly to the Afrikaner protest musicians of the '80s. When Segerman and Bartholomew begin their investigation to uncover the mystery of Sixto Rodriguez, they take a cue from Watergate and decide to "follow the money." As each layer is unpeeled, it only adds another mystery.Though his albums are said to have sold half a million records, speculation is rife with questions about what happened to the money and an interview with, Clarence Avant, the boss of Motown adds more heat than light. What the music detectives eventually find is not only surprising but extremely poignant, and it is best for viewers to find this out for themselves. The film is an odyssey of discovery, even self-discovery, that is a profoundly inspiring celebration of a man and his music. More than just a film about music and musicians, however, it is about the human condition. Though it reveals its secrets slowly, when it hits you, it is with an astonishing burst of power that you can feel in your bones. Searching for Sugar Man is one of the best films of the year.
Long lost gem. Lovely movie and a must for fans of Dylan-esque music (by ajvi99)
I caught this movie at an advanced screening at the UN during Mandela week and I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the movie and even more enthralled to discover this long, lost gem of music. The movie revolves around an up-and-coming Rock'n'roller from the 70s who recorded two albums and then disappeared into obscurity. His music was lost in the US but by a strange coincidence becomes a cult hit in South Africa and becomes a symbol of rebellion for the underground white, anti-apartheid sub-culture. The documentary is a lovely journey of discovery of the south africans who try to <more>
find the roots of this enigma and re-discover his music. I won't spoil too much but for fans of Dylan like music, this might be a long, lost gem and music that perhaps, at least now, deserves more recognition and appreciation.
This documentary really grows on you. As the story and the search begins, you slowly but surely get caught up in the narrative. For me the amazing part of this journey is the composure and serenity of Rodriguez himself. Despite the lack of recognition in his own country, he continued to lead a rich life filled with hope and creativity. Just looking at his 3 beautiful daughters is testament to this. The sound tracks are really wonderful and take you back to the 60s and 70s. Another interesting facet of this movie is the exploration of the overthrow of Apartheid. Many who embraced the music of <more>
Rodriquez were Africaaners who were looking for change and a better life for everyone in their country. You come out of this movie believing in a better world.
Greetings again from the darkness. I make no apologies for my tendency to have higher expectations and be more demanding of documentaries than other films. When dealing with a real subject, event or person, there is no place for fabrication or embellishment. The truth must stand and entertain on its own. Filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul has no such issue given his fascinating, almost jaw-dropping story of musician Sixto Rodriguez.Described as Dylan-esque, Rodriguez was a folk singer and songwriter who put out two albums: Cold Fact 1970 and Comng from Reality 1971 . Despite critical raves, the <more>
album sales were minimal and Sussex/A&R dropped him. After that, the story got a bit hazy. Urban Legend had Rodriguez dousing himself with gasoline while onstage, and committing suicide by lighting himself up. Mostly he just seemed to disappear, not simply fade away.Nearly incomprehensible in today's age of internet communication, the Rodriguez songs became anthems for the anti-apartheid whites in South Africa. The music reached the country through bootleg copies and the popularity grew. We meet a Cape Town record store owner and indie music supporter names Stephen Segerman who describes Rodriguez as "bigger than Elvis" in South Africa. In the late 1990's a world wide web manhunt began.What happens after that ... I will leave it to the film. Just know that this documentary is a blend of Mystery, Intrigue, Urban Legend, Who-done-it, and Where are they now? There is a brief interview with Clarence Avant, the owner of now-defunct Sussex Records, during which he provides the only real insight into the music industry underbelly. Additionally, so much of the story goes unexplained. So many questions unanswered ... even unasked! However, the story itself, and Rodriguez the man, are so amazing, that the entertainment and intellectual value of the film remains intact.Since the vast majority 99% plus of us have never previously heard of Rodriguez, the film does a nice job of integrating his songs in a manner that allows us to get a real understanding for the musical genius and why the critics and South Africa fell hard for it. This is a fascinating story and captivating film, despite lacking in "the rest of the story" department.
Feelgood true-story movie - a few bits missing (by justincward)
In the early 1970s, a shy Mexican singer-songwriter in Detroit makes two albums which sell 'six copies', and is tracked down in obscurity nearly 30 years later by a journalist from South Africa, where he's become 'bigger than Elvis'. Triumphant sell-out concerts follow, while the man himself remains modest and enigmatic.What's not to like? Rodriguez himself comes across as a nice guy, still mega-cool at 70, his music is like Bill Withers' with a harder, more earnest political edge, as well as being relevant to the end of the Apartheid regime, and the whole idea <more>
that a man could become a superstar simply by word of mouth chimes nicely with the YouTube superstar dream that's around at the moment.Technically top-notch; great photography, the songs themselves are integrated really well and don't overstay their welcome, and the whole sense of story and journey is maintained right to the end.Maybe it's because it comes from a less media-savvy, less jaded country that afterwards you do get the feeling that they could have been a little more incisive. Clarence Avant, the chairman of Sussex Records who received the platinum-selling royalties from SA, scarily blusters his way out of explaining how 'the money doesn't matter'. We never get to hear about, let alone meet, Rodriguez' wives, and as one of the talking heads says, 'Rodriguez doesn't give away anything of himself'. Nor does he in this movie, which leaves you wanting more. There's also the unmentioned point that Rodriguez did actually tour Australia and Sweden in the 80's - so he wasn't totally off the radar.But while they're telling the story, these questions don't really matter. The story is well paced, and there's enough original footage to bring to life the triumphant comeback concert where Rodriguez spent 15 minutes just taking applause before playing a note.Somehow I kept thinking of 'Spinal Tap' - there are quite a few funny moments - and 'Searching for Sugar Man' does have its eventual happy ending. And here's a thought - without music piracy it would never have happened.
A music documentary with a difference (by Red-Barracuda)
This is a music biography with a bit of a difference. Normally when we settle down to watch one of these we know in advance what the artist's music is like. Even if we are not committed fans we usually at least know something. In this documentary this will simply not be the case for the vast majority of folks who decide to watch it. For this reason, Searching for Sugar Man is somewhat unusual.Its subject, the singer-songwriter Sixto Rodriguez, recorded a couple of critically praised but commercially disastrous albums in the early 70's. He was quickly dropped by his record label and <more>
then basically vanished from the public eye for over quarter of a century. Rumours of his on-stage suicide circulated as fact. Where the story becomes a little unexpected is that through word of mouth he became massive in South Africa of all places. In the apartheid years his music developed a following that rivalled bands like the Rolling Stones. His lyrics hit a note with white liberals there and his albums became anti-establishment classics. Many of the people who would make important contributions to overturning the apartheid regime were influenced by Rodriguez. But the thing is, he knew absolutely nothing of his fame and popularity there. He received no royalties at all for the 500,000 albums he sold in South Africa. When interviewed, his label boss Clarence Avant gets a little shifty when asked about this. It seems that Rodriguez had been dealt a somewhat bum hand.The second act of the story began when one of the South Africans who loved him discovered when speaking to an American friend that Rodriguez albums were impossible to buy in the States. This was something of a revelation, as up until this point it was generally assumed that he must have been a peer of Bob Dylan and just as popular. This led to a quest to discover more about the man; it led to the incredible discovery that he was still alive and living a modest life in Detroit with his daughters. The man himself was utterly unaware of his cultural impact in South Africa. The South African's subsequently organised concerts back home and so Rodriguez went there in the late 90's. A nobody at home, there he played to crowds of tens of thousands of people of all ages in the spectrum. They all seemed to know his records off by heart too. It was a revelation to witness this strange but uplifting story arc.It's difficult to really know why Rodriguez never made it at the time. Many now classic acts such as Nick Drake never made it during their recording careers either. Sometimes a combination of things just conspires against a musician and Rodriguez seems to have been a victim of this circumstance. His music certainly is good - and there are nice animated segments to go along with some of his songs here – but it's difficult to say how good on one viewing. Certainly there were a lot of singer-songwriters in the early 70's on the back of Dylan. But what makes this documentary so interesting is not just the discovery of something hidden and good but also the realisation that a mass cultural happening could occur on another side of the world without it's figurehead knowing the slightest thing about it. It's overall a fascinating story and one for all music fans.