Searching for Sugar Man
Directed by Malik Bendjelloul
Cornerhouse, 15 August 2012
If you’ve ever listened to an obscure Northern Soul record and wondered what became of the person singing on it, then this is the film for you.
It tells the story of Rodriguez, a singer/songwriter who was wildly and widely popular in South Africa, yet a flop in his native America. He released a couple of albums with a Detroit label then faded from the scene.
There’s something in the film about Rodriguez’s music and its impact in South Africa, and about the quest to discover his fate, to track him down. If he’s still alive, that is. Rumours of a spectacular suicide on stage persist.
At the end, the documentary feels rather slight: the trick has all been in the telling, the way it has been set up. Rodriguez comes across as a good man, mind, resilient and steadfast and indomitable. And a fine singer and musician too.