Searching for Sugar Man

"Excellent"

Searching for Sugar Man Review


With a driving, twisty narrative, this documentary grabs hold with a thoroughly involving story that has a lot to say about the music industry and global culture. It also features vivid people whose lives and observations can't help but move us.

Cape Town record shop owner Stephen Segerman was nicknamed "Sugar Man" after his favourite song by early 1970s American folk singer Rodriguez. Since Rodriguez's two albums went unnoticed in the US, there's no information about the artist beyond conflicting rumours of his death. Segerman teams up with a journalist (Bartholomew-Strydom) to launch an international search, but no one has a clue. Even though Rodriguez was bigger than Elvis and the Rolling Stones in South Africa, providing a voice for the anti-establishment movement at a time when Apartheid was at its most brutal.

Swedish filmmaker Bendjelloul starts by following this crazy quest, which eventually results in the startling discovery that Rodriguez is still living in Detroit. But the story doesn't end there, documenting not only the decline of post-Motown record labels launched by pioneers like Avant, but also an economic and political reality that we rarely see on screen. But this isn't a political film: it's a personal journey with a hugely endearing pay-off.

What's most fascinating is the way the film highlights the huge cultural gap between South Africa and the rest of the world. Rodriguez's records flopped in America, despite great reviews and a relevant style that's like a punchier, more melodic Bob Dylan. But the South Africans took to his music because he sang about individual pain and freedom, and refusing to obey a corrupt system.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez lived a tough life that's notable for its gritty integrity. So seeing him discovering his impact on the world is genuinely moving.

Bendjelloul assembles this without overstating the issues or sentimentalising the emotion. Even so, the stirs our righteous rage and makes our hearts leap.

It's gorgeously shot to capture the natural beauty of each setting, from snowy run-down Detroit to the sun-baked Cape, punctuated by clever animation that adds texture and mood. Most intriguing is how it changes the way we see "failed" acts from reality shows like The X Factor. It should be mandatory viewing for all contestants.



Searching for Sugar Man

Facts and Figures

Run time: 86 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 26th July 2012

Box Office USA: $3.7M

Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics

Production compaines: Passion Pictures, Red Box Films, Canfield Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Fresh: 111 Rotten: 6

IMDB: 8.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Malik Bendjelloul

Producer: Simon Chinn, Malik Bendjelloul

Starring: Dennis Coffey as Himself, Rodriguez as Himself, Steve Segerman as Himself, Mike Theodore as Himself

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

The latest adaptation of Agatha Christie's 83-year-old classic whodunit, this lavish, star-studded film is old-style...

Paddington 2 Movie Review

Paddington 2 Movie Review

The first Paddington movie in 2014 is already such a beloved classic that it's hard...

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

Everyone's back from last year's undemanding adult comedy, plus some starry new cast members, for...

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Filmmaker S. Craig Zahler brought a blast of offbeat creativity to the Western genre two...

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

Fans of the film In the Loop and the TV series Veep will definitely not...

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Set in northern Italy in the summer of 1983, this internationally flavoured drama is a...

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

The most riotously enjoyable Marvel movie yet, this action epic benefits hugely from the decision...

Advertisement
Breathe Movie Review

Breathe Movie Review

While this biopic has the standard sumptuous production values of a British period drama, it's...

The Snowman Movie Review

The Snowman Movie Review

With a cast and crew packed with A-list talent, this film seems like it should...

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.