Searching for Sugar Man [Blu-Ray]

Malik Bendjelloul

BY Daniel PrattPublished Jan 15, 2013

As the popularity of the genre grows, documentary filmmakers continue to devise interesting ways to make a topic entertaining and accessible to the masses. Seemingly, one of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to infuse a fiction-influenced style that makes the documentary seem more like an exciting narrative feature than talking head didactic, not unlike those yawn-inducing educational videos we were subjected to as grade-schoolers. In the case of Malik Bendjelloul's debut feature, Searching for Sugar Man, he had the ingredients for an incredible documentary: a story no one had previously heard that could appeal to a broad audience. Initially documenting the life of '70s Detroit folk singer Sixto Rodriguez, the chronology of the tale stops cold when noting Rodriguez's disappearance into obscurity after his two albums failed to garner any attention in the U.S. The story veers off into a wild tangent when it comes to light that a bootlegged copy of Rodriguez's debut, Cold Fact, made its way to South Africa and spread like wildfire in popularity, subsequently linking itself to the anti-apartheid movement. For the next 40 years, Rodriguez would become bigger than the Rolling Stones in South Africa, even though no one in North America knew who he was. Bendjelloul eloquently blends stories from two different locales, surpassing the notion that this is merely a simple music documentary, evolving into a tale of the human spirit. Its message is simple: no matter how underappreciated an artist might feel, there is likely someone, or many people, somewhere in the world that loves their work. Included on the Blu-Ray is commentary from Bendjelloul and Rodriguez, as well as an incredibly insightful 30-minute mini-documentary that goes behind the scenes to explain how one of 2012's best docs came to be. It doesn't expand upon the money situation (i.e., who was taking home the paycheques when Rodriguez's albums ran up the charts in South Africa?), but it does address the fact that he still hasn't seen any of the financial rewards.

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