Searching for Sugar Man will open in limited release this coming Friday. The Malik Bendjelloul movie is surrounded with lots of hype after winning at Sundance. If you haven’t heard about the movie, it is advisable to search for its trailer.
Searching for Sugar Man is based on a true story and yet if you didn’t know this, you would dismiss it as being out-of-touch from reality. You might say that it could only happen in a movie. Yet the film is a moving and wonderful piece of reality. A lot of it is accredited to Bendjelloul’s brilliance.
The movie begins in Detroit in 1970. It features a singer-songwriter named Rodriguez, which is short for Sixto Rodriguez. He is a son of Mexican immigrants. He was discovered and made a record for a label connected with Buddah Records, which would become a leading disco leader later in that decade.
Rodriguez’ producers include Dennis Coffey, who is a member of the Motown studio band The Funk Brothers. They have high hopes for Rodriguez’ records but his first album, Cold Fact, and his second one, Coming to Reality, flopped on the market. And just like that, he disappeared without a trace.
Then Searching for Sugar Man takes the moviegoers to Cape Town, South Africa, where a copy of Cold Fact made its way to teens. Some of them are part of the anti-apartheid struggle. Rodriguez’ lyrics are straightforward and the South Africans can relate with regards to questioning authority. The album becomes an underground hit.
It is unclear whether someone manages to import copies of the album or produce them in South Africa, but what is clear is that it becomes a soundtrack of protest. According to an observer, everyone had a copy of Cold Fact, much like how everyone in a certain generation in America had a copy of Dark Side of the Moon or Abbey Road.