Casual Critics: A Hidden Legend – A Review of “Searching for Sugar Man”

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Is it possible for a man to be a complete rock star, on the opposite side of the world, in a country he has never visited, and never know about it? For many South Africans, Sixto Rodriguez was a lot more than rock star. He was social icon; an outsider who was saying the things they wanted to say but simply could not. Searching for Sugar Man (2012), directed by Malik Bendjelloul, is an eye-opening, heart-touching documentary on the legend and mystery behind the man simply known as Rodriguez.

Searching for Sugar Man won the Best Documentary category at the 85th Academy Awards. Rodriguez opted not to attend the event because he did not want to overshadow, or take away from the creators of the film. This selfless gesture summarizes, on a few levels, the path of life chosen by Rodriguez, or, even, the path that he passed up.

The documentary itself is nothing short of a masterpiece. It is one thing to tell a good story, but it is even better to tell that story in an effective way — one that strongly appeals to the audience. Searching for Sugar Man does both.

This documentary takes the audience on a roller coaster ride into the search for a musician who vanished. Although the film concentrates on the real life experiences of real people, the manipulation of camera, mechanical distortions of movement, and even the incorporation of animation, try to sway the film towards the formalism side of the spectrum. Through the use of various editing techniques, the film actually calls attention to itself, rather than the subject. In doing so, the film is actually highlighting the obvious in the fact that Sixto Rodriguez had been completely overlooked as a talented musician during his career, not to mention he was a ghost to those who tried searching for him

— Donatas Ružys, Film Blogger

Editor’s Note: We’ve previously published two other reviews of Searching for Sugar Man, one by Film Blogger Reno Stramaglia and another by JFR Managing Editor Sam Gennett.

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