Monday, 31 December 2012


Director Malik Bendjelloul takes a backseat in telling the story of a man in the front seat of his own story, even if he doesn't realise it. Jesus Rodriguez was a Detroit singer-songwriter in the '60s and '70s, briefly, immensely talented, on the brink of a career crippled by dismal sales. An enigmatic, inwards figure, who performed with his back to his audience, we hear leading industry producers wax about him in the most eulogistic of terms, and we hear what we assume to be urban legends from fans of an on-stage suicide. And what fans he did have - Rodriguez became an inadvertent success in Apartheid-era South Africa, and it is suggested that his music contributed to Apartheid's abolishing, and society's rebuilding. He was, and remains, a superstar in that sole nation, yet not even his most ardent fans knew the slightest detail about him, no name, no whereabouts, not even whether he was alive or dead, and no-one outside of South Africa, it seems, was aware of his phenomenal success there. This is a fascinating story, with details that will stoke your curiosity, and told in a sensitive, artful method that will compel your attention. Of course, it leads somewhere unexpected, and it is unexpected for several reasons - the film convinces you of one thing, then, gradually, begins to convince you of another, and continues to engage after it appears to have reached a satisfactory end, uncovering all of the right details at the right times. There is, perhaps, another story here, concerning the money generated by Rodriguez's record sales, although, despite insinuations herein which you may ascertain for yourself, this appears to be a story that requires much more detailed, and perhaps unrewarding research on Bendjelloul's behalf. And anyway, let's not judge a film for what it is not, but for what it is. Searching for Sugar Man is a stirring, surprising documentary with some good twists made great by adroit storytelling, and with a killer soundtrack!