Even with a Special Jury Prize at Sundance 2012 and an Oscar as Best Documentary in 2013, I still feel that Searching For Sugar Man deserves an even wider recognition. Since I’ve watched it I have been recommending it to everyone. Here in France it’s still playing in theatres, but for those less fortunate the dvd is coming out in 2 days (May 23rd in France).
Without giving away all details, the story focuses on two South Africans, Mr Stephen Segerman and Mr Craig Bartholomew-Strydom and their incredible quest throughout the 90s to find all possible information on the über famous and mysterious American folk rock artist Sixto Rodriguez, whose album Cold Fact had been a best seller for two decades in their country.
Now, let’s point out a few facts.
Number one: do you remember life before the internet? Let’s go back to the 70s: someone hands on an album. All you know about it is in the cover, the music and the lyrics. That’s all, unless a magazine publishes an interview or more info on said artist. Which was not what happened in our case. No info available on Mr Rodriguez. At all.
Number two: let’s not forget that we’re in South Africa during the 70s and the Apartheid. I’ve found it very interesting to learn about the way the censorship and the isolation of the country impacted on the everyday life of young white liberals.
This said, it’s not astonishing that Sixto Rodriguez, who was unknown in the US, was considered a superstar just as The Beatles and the Led Zeppelin in South Africa (half a million copies of his 1970 album Cold Fact sold). There, everybody who loved rock music had a copy of the album and sang all of his songs by heart. The lack of information about him just contributed to build the legend.
I have the chance to know in person the executive producer of Sugar Man (not bragging) and a few days ago I met her here in Cannes during the FIF. She told me that even though they knew the story was good (and the music too) they didn’t expect all this recognition. The praise is very well gained and Rodriguez is an artist who deserves to be discovered, even forty years later. So, please, if you watch it let me know your thoughts in the comments below.