ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION:
- Best Documentary Feature
Searching for Sugar Man has pretty much everything I want in a documentary: it’s on a subject I knew nothing about, it’s shot incredibly beautifully, it’s the perfect length, it’s interesting, it’s surprising, and it has really good music.
The story of Searching for Sugar Man is pretty incredible: a presumed-dead folk artist from the 70s gains massive success in South Africa, while being a musical failure in the United States. No one in the United States, including the musician (Rodriguez), knows about the hundreds of thousands of copies his albums sold in South Africa and neither he or his family ever received any royalties. The documentary is about two super fans who set out to find out how Rodriguez died, only to discover not only is he not dead, but in perfectly good health and living in Detroit.
Rodriguez’s discovery of his fame in South Africa (several people say he’s bigger than Elvis and The Rolling Stones there) is like someone discovering they’re the heir to the throne of a small, unheard of country. It’s pretty amazing, and if it were a fictional feature, it would be almost too far-fetched. But as a documentary, it’s incredible.
I had no idea what this documentary was about before we watched it but it truly is a great movie. I had never heard of the musician, Rodriguez, before but I really wish I had a lot sooner. He is definitely someone my high school self would have been obsessed with. I’ll have to look for his albums at End of an Ear next time I’m there.
The first thing I thought about this movie was how well it is shot. The filmmakers make Detroit look absolutely beautiful. The mix of snow shots in Detroit and sunny landscapes in Cape Town, South Africa played well together. The film also has a few animated sections which I enjoyed and didn’t expect. I think thats really what I liked most about this documentary, it has a lot of elements that work together. If I had stayed with making movies this is the kind of thing I would have wanted to do.
I really hope Sixto Rodriguez is at the Oscars cause I want to see him sitting with the stars in those cool sunglasses.