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Searching for Sugar Man
Genre Documentary
 
Review:

Rockumentaries are usually about fame, the paranoia of money and the affects of a sex, drugs and rock 'n roll lifestyle on the road. Searching for Sugar Man reinvents the genre with a real-life mystery about Sixto Rodriguez, a '70s music icon, whose career was stifled and forgotten... or so it seemed. Decades after Rodriguez vanished from the music scene, two South Africans decided to find out what happened to the shy and mysterious rock 'n roller.

Searching for Sugar Man recounts Rodriguez's quiet explosion onto on the music scene, from smokey bars in Detroit to the release of two albums under Motown bigwig, Clarence Avant. The documentary encounters his record producers, who give their take on the man, reflecting on the mysticism surrounding him and offering speculation on why his albums didn't "make it".

It's a revelatory musical journey, undertaken like a detective mystery with clues leading a South African journalist closer to the truth on the back of a record store owner's provocative musings. Rodriguez's music guides the quest with montages of his songs as talking heads and archival footage of the true artist are uncovered. His influence on South African music culture is uncovered as the investigation follows the trail of money to find out what came of the artist.

Sugar Man and I Wonder are staples of South African pop culture and Rodriguez is an artist whose album was an essential part of most people's LP collections at the time, offering a folk alternative to Bob Dylan with street smart lyrics. In South Africa, the man was a musical legend... and his Cold Fact album is still comparable with the greats. However, this is not how the rest of the world saw him, seemingly immune to the music's allure, the man's enigma and the artist's talent.

Searching for Sugar Man is a thrilling and thought-provoking music documentary that unlocks doors without stepping through them. Swedish director, Malik Bendjelloul doesn't want to nail the mystery down, he's more concerned with getting his audience to discover and think for themselves. While it starts off slowly, we're gently immersed in the mystery as clues lead our intrepid fans closer to closure.

We're introduced to Rodriguez, his musical genius and the enigma that continues to perpetuate his music, leaving each chapter with an intentional ellipsis... This captures the essence of an artist, whose mystery doubles back on itself like a mirage as the closer we get, the further away we feel. This true story is like a dream, fleeting and well-versed in an elusive truth about the music industry, ambition, fame, self-promotion and what's really important in life.

Whether you're a longtime fan or hearing Rodriguez for the first time, Searching for Sugar Man, packs an emotional punch, soulfully resonating with musicians and giving audiences something to chew on. The music is powerful, the true story is incredible and the journey is unforgettable. Searching for Sugar Man is a rewatchable meditation on fame, a must-see documentary and a classic rockumentary.

The bottom line: Spellbinding

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9.00/10 ( 3 Votes )
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