In the late 1960s in Detroit, a mysterious singer-songwriter of Mexican parentage named Rodriguez was discovered. Although his first album ‘Cold Fact’ was favourably reviewed, he faded promptly into obscurity, leaving behind only urban legends of a gruesome on-stage suicide.
But unbeknownst to him his light burned in one small corner of the world. Decades later, two intrepid fans decided to investigate what happened to the mysterious rocker whose soulful, prophetic songs were comparable to the work of Bob Dylan.
Malik Bendjelloul, the director of the documentary film spoke about the film’s plot: “Searching for Sugar Man, it’s about a man who didn’t know he was famous for 30 years. The story is, he made an album in the 70s which was a masterpiece, it was absolutely fantastic, and it sells nothing in America, literally nothing, like, six copies, I mean, nothing, nothing. And he makes another attempt, another album, the same result. And then he stops making music, he starts to work in construction, and never learns that one of those albums gets to South Africa and in South Africa, Rodriguez becomes more famous than The Rolling Stones. He sells ten times platinum, becomes one of the most famous artists ever, and he doesn’t know about this.”
Using unique archive material and a large dollop of excellent music, director Malik Bendjelloul investigates the fate of a man whose final comeback outstrips even the wildest tales in music history. The suspense-filled documentary was awarded the Special Jury Prize and the Audience Award at Sundance this year.
As for Rodriguez, now 69 years old, he has hope for the future due to new interest in his music from the film.
He spoke about what occupies his time these days: “Well, a musician always plays. I do covers. I practice a lot, I rehearse a lot, I meet other musicians and we talk music and make plans for the future. I’m – this is separate from the film itself – I practice music, but with the film we’re getting a lot more attention and it’s exciting, my music career.”
‘Searching for Sugar Man’ is now playing in Ireland, the UK and the United States. It opens in Sweden on 24 August 2012. A soundtrack for the film and Rodriguez’s albums are available on iTunes.