Movie – Searching for Sugar Man

Movie – Searching for Sugar Man

I’m a card-carrying member of mainstream cinema but it’s been distinctly lacking in films I want to see lately. I’m not into any of this seasons blockbuster releases; Batman, Bourne, Spiderman – although I eventually saw that one and it was better than expected.

I only counted four Cineworld cinemas showing the film this week and none in Birmingham. Searching for Sugar Man however is worth paying the extra to go and see it at the Electric, who sometimes, not often enough for me, put on some great low profile releases.

I only knew the movie was about searching for a musician and didn’t know anything about the story. That alone made me want to see if but when two fellow music fans both recommended it to me, it was an immediate must see and a perfect accompaniment to a Sunday evening after an exhausting week (despite 4 days off in Berlin!).

If you are as unfamiliar as me, the story is of Rodriguez, a struggling, talented singer-song writer from Detroit who makes a couple of albums at the turn of the 1970s, having been signed by a label run by an ex-Motown boss. It sounds like the start of the American dream with comparisons to Bob Dylan abound but the records do nothing stateside and he is dropped and carries on living a hard, blue-collar life in construction, making ends meet for his family.

Unbeknown to him, over in South Africa, a record is reportedly taken over by an American girl visiting her boyfriend and all his friends love it. A huge fan base grows and as far as SA is concerned, everyone knows about Rodriguez, despite the powers that be literally scratching through the tracks on the records they don’t want people to hear. He is ‘bigger than Elvis.’ However, this is in the pre-internet 1970s and Apartheid rules so the South African people have no way of knowing what’s going on outside of their country; all the TV and other media are controlled by the government and they can’t find anything about this character that has completely changed their attitude towards life, to music, to the politics of their country.

There are scores of musicians and bands influenced by Rodriguez and yet no-one knows anything about him and worse, he doesn’t know about this huge fan base outside of America. They even assume he is dead with rumours ranging from shooting himself in the head on stage to dowsing himself with petrol.

The documentary film then charts the search for Sugar Man (one of his tracks) by a fan and a music journalist who eventually meet and combine their findings.

There are many poignant moments, not least the whole soundtrack but I find the humbleness of the man and his 3 grown up daughters heart-breakingly enchanting.

Searching for Sugar Man is a touching, beautiful, sad and thought-provoking film.


9½/10 (It’s a true story so they say it how it is)

Smile factor 9/10 (there is much sadness)


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