In a random act of tiredness I decided to rent Searching for Sugar Man from iTunes. This was last night, and I’m still smiling about the movie.
Searching for Sugar Man might be one of the most inspiring, emotive and damn-right awesome documentaries released in recent times. It’s the story of a real-life search for a musical reject-turned-musical superstar. Rodriguez, a solo musician (think Bob Dylan), failed to break out of his hometown of Detroit, MI, despite being one of the most talented artists of the 70s. In an incongruous turn of events, his first album, Solid Facts, ended up finding its way to South Africa and the rest is history.
Sometimes you’ll discover a story that fully restores your faith in the human spirit, and this definitely falls into this category. The movie is broken up into three acts; the myth, the search and the last one (left vague to leave you with the suspense). It’s really interesting how Rodriguez’s fans mythicise the musician, with word of mouth having spread about his demise; some believe he shot himself on stage, others think it was him setting himself on fire. Either way, they gave him a rockstar death. In reality, it’s all very different.
Like all good documentaries, Searching For Sugar Man contains some socio-political contextualisation. Apartheid was at its strongest point during Rodriguez’s rise to fame in the 80s. The disaffected youth discovered music was a great form of protest, and their idol and influence was Rodriguez. This narrative prologues the main story behind the search for Rodriguez, but it really enhances the audiences’ understanding of how the people of South Africa relate to Sugar Man and his music.
Searching For Sugar Man is a breath of fresh air and delivers a truly inspirational story. It’s adeptly constructed, contains elements of fantastic movie making and storytelling and will definitely put a smile on your face. That’s a solid fact.