Searching for Sugar Man


2012 | 86 minutes | Rated PG-13

Sugar Man’s first two-thirds threads Rodriguez’s caustic, insightful, and surreal psychedelic folk songs (think Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs on psilocybin) through vignettes of Detroit’s downtrodden neighborhoods and interviews with his album producers, label owners, and house-renovation co-workers. We get a vivid idea of Rodriguez’s enigmatic personality and riveting art, then learn of his bigger-than-Elvis status in South Africa, which allegedly grew from a single passed-around cassette of his classic 1970 LP, Cold Fact. The rest of the film focuses on a South African record-store proprietor and music journalist searching for the elusive songwriter whose work inspired their compatriots fighting oppressive apartheid policies. When they finally locate him in 1998 and arrange triumphant concerts in Johannesburg, we marvel at Rodriguez’s impact there compared to America’s mass indifference. With poignancy, Sugar Man portrays a bafflingly overlooked musician who still lives frugally in his humble Detroit home of 40 years. (DAVE SEGAL)

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Film Credits
Malik Bendjelloul