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Searching For Sugar Man [DVD]
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The Academy Award-winning producer of Man on Wire unveils the incredible and moving story of Rodriguez, a ‘70s U.S. rock icon who never was.
In the late ‘60s, a musician was discovered in a Detroit bar by two celebrated producers who were struck by his soulful melodies and prophetic lyrics. They recorded an album that they believed was going to secure his reputation as one of the greatest recording artists of his generation. Despite overwhelming critical acclaim, the album bombed and the singer disappeared into obscurity amid rumors of a gruesome on-stage suicide. But a bootleg recording found its way into apartheid South Africa and, over the next two decades, it became a phenomenon. Two South African fans then set out to find out what really happened to their hero. Their investigation led them to a story more extraordinary than any of the existing myths about the artist known as Rodriguez. This is a film about hope, inspiration and the resonating power of music.
- Making Of
- Commentary with Director Malik Bendjelloul and Sixto Rodriguez
If you hadn’t heard of Sixto Rodriguez, you’re in good company. An American songwriter of Motown lineage, Rodriguez’ talents never managed to take root in the West. But for a generation of South Africans his quiet anthems became a mouthpiece of opposition to the apartheid regime, as central to the censorship protests as Dylan to the civil rights movement. As his legend grew in the 1970s, the real Rodriguez faded--idling in his career and eventually dying in grotesque circumstances on stage. His rediscovery, the subject of this intensely uplifting documentary, is a rare victory for wishful thinking, lifelong dreaming and hoping against hope. In the late nineties, two journalists hit the road to find out how Rodriguez died and what happened to his legacy. Their leads go nowhere--until a deciphered lyric from Rodriguez’ feted album Cold Fact clues them into the intricate details of an unfulfilled life. A gentle and painfully exploited soul, Rodriquez retired from music to study philosophy, returning home to tough out the implosion of Detroit as a construction hand, always neatly dressed in an evening suit and a shroud of stardust. As the city was hollowed out by a collapsing motor industry, Rodriguez stayed behind to help: assisting demolitions and eventually running for political office in the 1980s. These details gather into a dazzling surprise, and the last half hour of Searching for Sugarman is a joyous victory parade in which a folk hero is restored to a wounded generation. Shot through with Rodriguez’ poppy folk--painful city isolation sweetened with dusty sunshine--Searching for Sugarman is both a pulse-raising, one-in-a-million comeback story, and, winning at the 2013 Oscars and propelling Rodriguez to stratospheric stardom, its own happy ending. --Leo Batchelor
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Top Customer Reviews
Sixto Diaz Rodriguez (pronounced Sees-Toe) was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1942 to recently emigrated Mexican parents. From the early to late Sixties, Motown had put the Motor City on the musical map - so emerging singer-songwriters cut their teeth in bars and cafes, soaked up the campus/street politics and hoped to get noticed. After an early 7" single in 1967 on Impact that folded without trace - enter Producer Dennis Coffey and Sussex Records (home of Bill Withers). Sixto's debut American album "Cold Fact" was released Stateside March 1970 on Sussex SXBS 7000 - followed the next year by "Coming From Reality" - November 1971 on Sussex SXBS 7012. But despite their musical quality - few noticed locally. Legend in fact has it that "Coming From Reality" sold less than 20 copies.
Cut to the other side of the world - South Africa - and young black and white kids are plagued by Apartheid. With lyrics like "drinking from a Judas cup...papa don't like new ideas round here..." or "I wonder will this hatred ever end?" - they pick up on the Arthur Lee melodies and the Bob Dylan protest lyrics and the soulful Jose Feliciano voice and the album becomes a huge hit over there. So Rodriguez tours and those shows are emblazoned into the memory. But then the mysterious American immigrant troubadour disappears...some even ruminating that he's dead - or never existed at all.
Cut to decades later and a South African secondhand record-store owner wonders what happened to this huge and positive influence in his life? And so the journey begins...searching for the sugar man...Read more ›
It is a brilliant film. I already liked his music but I came away in awe of the man. He is everything the average, dumb-head pop star isn't. He's talented, inconspicuous and meek and a very kind, gentle human being. One of the things that almost moved me to tears was the bit in the film where his daughter says the money he latterly earned from his success he gave away to the poor of Detroit. Brilliant! I hope I would do that in the same situation!
It's a film filled with drama and emotion, telling a story chronologically and with powerful imagery from Detroit and Cape Town backed up by spine-tingling music from the man himself.
If you don't enjoy and even love this film I will be frankly amazed. He is playing at the Sage Newcastle on 24th Nov - I CAN'T WAIT!!!!!!!
Only State controlled media was allowed and TV was still a couple of years away, but out of the fog of State Censorship came Cold Fact followed by After the Fact. And Rodriguez entered the life of a frustrated teenager.
I am happy to see that nearly 40 years later this artist who played such a large role in my teenage angst is getting the recognition, and royalties, he richly deserves. This documentary is well made and well worth the BAFTA, and hopefully an Oscar, it has already won. If you don't know of Rodriguez then this documentary is a great introduction to his story and music, if like me his music played constantly around the camp fire, the bedroom, the car and anywhere else you could play it as a teenager, then enjoy the trip down memory lane.
Searching For Sugar Man [Blu-ray]
Until I first heard about this film, I'd never heard of Rodriguez before. I'd never heard his music, never known about the impact he had on revolutionising a nation, never even heard his name mentioned. This, I think, is the best way to go into the documentary.
Although at the heart of this story is the journey that some South African's go on to find out "who is Rodriguez" - a man who, even to the nation he helped change, was a complete mystery - I think I enjoyed it more being blissfully ignorant. It's a journey I felt glad to follow and made me feel a part of the exploration. I am now aware of Rodriguez, and so should others be!
Aside from being uplifting, the film tries to shed light on corruption and deceit within the music industry itself, but that aspect does feel a bit tame; like they're trying not to tread too deep into potentially libellous territory. For example, when they're "following the money" to try and trace what happened to Rodriguez, you get to see a brief clip of an interview with Motown legend Clarence Avant which gets cut short relatively quickly. I couldn't help but wonder how much was removed due to the threat of legal action?
But almost everyone else in this documentary comes across as genuine, humble, likeable people.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What an interesting story - I was put on to this by my son, glad he did - it is a great watch and a true storyPublished 10 days ago by Mrs D Bunk'ell
Really enjoyed it. So good to catch up with songs and faces from the past!Published 1 month ago by poetrosie
Who was Sugar Man, why was he called this, who was searching for him, and why was he being sought?
The answers are complicated and have to do with music, history,... Read more
Fantastic film. What an amazing story. The fickleness of celebrity. There is an element of the creators of this somewhat manipulating the narrative but its so well made, crafted... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Time Traveller
I was made aware of this story by a South African friend, I couldn't believe I'd never heard of it and so little is known about it here in the UK. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Nawty
Not at all what I was expecting and it took me a little while to get into it, mainly because I hadn't realised it was a true story. So glad that I persevered though. Read morePublished 2 months ago by A customer