Searching for Sugar Man review by Alyse Garner - Cinema Paradiso
Searching for Sugar Man is a movie heaped in unexpected-ness; there really is no other way to put it. This musical documentary begins as two South African music lovers; a record store owner and a rock journalist decide to find out the truth behind the disappearance of their idol, a Mexican-American musician whose music resonated so strongly with the oppressed people of South Africa during the Apatite that his songs became the war cries of a generation.
And you could ask 1000 Americans from his home town of Detroit and they never would have heard of him…
This unexpected music god, known only as Rodriguez, rocked South Africa after a single copy of one of his records was brought home as a gift by a girl for her boyfriend back in 1970, from there his music spread like wildfire. Yet, it seems, Rodriguez would never step foot upon the continent himself.
All this happens in the early 90’s, and the case (as followed by our rock and roll detectives) seems to wind constantly out into rumour and hearsay, until sometime in 1998 when the advent of the internet cracks the case wide open.
It is hard to discuss this movie without spoiling its outcome, I can say however that as the unexpected mystery of Rodriguez’s current whereabouts unfold we are treated to a wealth of other character interviews with those who knew him or heard his music almost thirty years ago. A patron of a slum bar in Detroit describes him as a drifter, whilst some of the men behind the biggest names in Motown lament over his lack of success State-side.
The unexpected popularity of Rodriguez can really only be translated to that of Bob Dylan in Western culture – and the music that makes up the soundtrack to this fabulous little documentary is surprisingly evocative of Dylan and left me with goose bumps.
In its short runtime Searching for Sugar Man introduces a wholly unexpected but nonetheless charming and fulfilling drama and mystery that literally blew me away. This is an absolute must see for anyone with an interest in music or political history and an unexpected treasure for everyone else.