• FILM

  • SEARCH FOR

Searching for Sugar Man

Searching for Sugar Man

Directed by Malik Bendjelloul. (2012, PG-13, 86 min.)

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Aug. 17, 2012

You should really stop reading this right now. Not kidding. It isn't that Searching for Sugar Man's plot developments are gotcha!-like, but this documentary does boast some bowl-you-over reveals best experienced blind. In his first feature, Swedish filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul treks his camera to South Africa to investigate the legend of Rodriguez, a Seventies-era singer-songwriter long rumored dead. (One bit of apocrypha had him committing self-immolation onstage.) Rodriguez was a bust in his native America. A Detroit street poet in cool-cat shades, whose music – sampled generously here – recalls Donovan, Dylan, and Nick Drake, was received rapturously by critics but never caught on. Where it did catch on, somewhat improbably, was South Africa. Rodriguez’s music became anthemic for the anti-apartheid Voëlvry movement of the Afrikaans counterculture, and the musician, with his hazy origins and questionable demise, became an icon. The story of Rodriguez's stumble and – for the love of Pete, spoiler alert! – triumphant redemption is engrossing stuff, further enlivened by animated interstitials that keep the film from feeling too heavy with talking heads. The gladdening coda has continued, post film release, at numerous concerts, including a showcase at the 2012 South by Southwest Music Festival.

This review has been expanded since its original publication during the SXSW Film Festival 2012.

READ MORE
More Films
The Autopsy of Jane Doe
Strange things are afoot in the morgue

Marjorie Baumgarten, Jan. 13, 2017

Live by Night
Ben Affleck directs and stars in this period gangster drama

Kimberley Jones, Jan. 13, 2017

More by Kimberley Jones
Film-Focused Radio Show <i>On Story</i> Returns
Film-Focused Radio Show On Story Returns
Season 2 debuts with John Lee Hancock (The Founder) interview

Jan. 6, 2017

Kimberley Jones’ Top 10 Films of 2016
Kimberley Jones’ Top 10 Films of 2016

Dec. 30, 2016

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Searching for Sugar Man, Malik Bendjelloul

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
This content has not been formatted for this window size.
Please increase the size of your browser window, or revisit this page on a mobile device.
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)