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.
Searching for Sugar Man, directed by Malik Bendjelloul, is a documentary that tells the story of an “invisible” musical genius, and his profound influence during the rock n’ roll era. Sixto Rodriguez, a humble and grounded musician, acted as a revolutionary icon for the youth of South Africa throughout the 1970s.
Searching for Sugar Man is a true story that brilliantly depicts the music career of a man that “never existed.” Although Rodriquez touched the hearts of thousands of people, he remained a mystery to the rest of the world. To unveil the mystery of the legendary figure, fans worked together in order to analyze Sixto’s well-written lyrics. His impact was tremendous, but his music was the only piece of him that seemed to exist.
This documentary takes the audience on an adventure in which they can experience the fascinating exploration for the “Sugar Man” himself. Malik Bendjelloul’s incredible artistic abilities comment on the film in a unique way that captivates the audience.
Most “rockumentaries” follow a standard formula: baby pictures, interviews with family members, the rise to fame, and the tragic drug overdose concluding with the death of the artist.
However, Malik Bendjelloul’s documentary on long, lost musician Sixto Rodriguez breaks this traditional format in Searching for Sugar Man. It’s a film one-part rockumentary and another part mystery, as a music journalist goes on a quest to find out what really happened to the enigmatic singer — did he really set himself on fire at a show? Or was it a bullet to the head?
The beginning of Bendjelloul’s film depicts animations of Rodriguez, an unknown troubadour in America but South Africa’s equivalent to Bob Dylan, walking down a Detroit street.