Title: Searching for Sugar Man
Director: Malik Bendjelloul
A KVIFF viewing of this demystifying documentary of a miracle would never find a copycat in the digital-era, Rodriguez “The Sugar Man”, an American minstrel in the 1970s who has sold a sensational figure of records in South Africa while being exclusively oblivious in USA, and when rumour says he died in a suicide attempt while performing it on stage, the story seems to reach its cul-de-sac. But two South Africans, take the onerous task to dig out the mystery behind (including the director himself), and eventually the truth has been disclosed in a quite satisfying way both on screen and off screen.
First of all, Rodriguez’s songs (from his albums COLD FACT 1970, COMING FROM REALITY 1971, and a piece from his never-released third album) have prevailed in the entire film’s narrative, which after a first-time listening, feels more affinity with Bob Dylan’s Folk Rock tunes, most of which pertain to lower-class or working-class self-inspection, definitely have their own mark of time.
The poignancy has been simmered halfway through when the story has a dramatic twist and leads to the second half of the film into a different angle of revelation, an enigmatic fetish figure’s condescendence into the real world. And a poetic licence has to be introduced to his personal life as de-iconization is always a tough call to make.
Then, about what prompted Rodriguez’s case so unique? The film seems to be a bit withdrawn in unraveling the real reason behind it (a deliberate conspiracy theory is never in the picture), indeed, even there were merely 40 years before, we already have forgotten how things stand at then, and this could be a scarier discovery.
By the way, the film has a very audience-friendly approach, and if you are a music enthusiast, this film will be a delectable choice to be enchanted by the pure magic of music.
ps. The film stalwartly proves that South Africa is exactly a white people’s country in the African land.