Searching for Sugar Man

The Nominations:

  • Documentary Feature

The Black-and-White:

A review by spacedcowboy:

Documentaries are in a category that I have felt, and expressed in these “pages”, is misunderstood. Too often a so-called documentary is not a documentary but a political commentary. All too often I agree with the message, but the film-purist in my heart says: “no, this is not a documentary, this is news, or propaganda.”

Searching for Sugar Man” reset the bar. It is a documentary, in the pure sense of the word, and a compelling story. It is how it should be.

The plot synopsis from

In the early 1970s, Sixto Rodriguez was a Detroit folksinger who had a short-lived recording career with only two well received but non-selling albums. Unknown to Rodriguez, his musical story continued in South Africa where he became a pop music icon and inspiration for generations. Long rumored there to be dead by suicide, a few fans in the 1990s decided to seek out the truth of their hero’s fate. What follows is a bizarrely heartening story in which they found far more in their quest than they ever hoped, while a Detroit construction laborer discovered that his lost artistic dreams came true after all. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (

The film chronicles the life of Sixto Rodrigues, a singer/songwriter from the epic transition era of the 1960’s to the early 1970’s. He had two albums which were generally well received in America, and, as we learn in this film, even more so overseas.

The film takes us on a voyage. It is for someone who may have enjoyed his music then, or if just exposed to it now, may appreciate it for the first time. This is a story, but it is told impartially and factually, engaging and entertaining us without creating a fictional protagonist for us to love, or forcing a viewpoint upon us.

One one hand, it is a story of Rodriguez’s music, and his life as a hard-laborer thereafter – an authentic soul who can sing the stories of the people of the world, but who also can take the hammer and hit the nail.

It is also the  story of a song, and stories, that ignited a nation (South Africa) and meant something to so, so many people while they struggled with so, so many challenges of a lifetime, and yet found hope in the words of a songwriter that, in the meantime, had all but been forgotten in his day-to-day life.

It is a story of rediscovery and reconnection, of a nation, of a people, of a poet and his people.

It is a story for all time.

The film itself was well shot,  researched, thoughtfully told, and faithfully kept within the definition of a documentary. This film has my highest praise, and my deepest thanks. I did not know this story, but it is one I will not forget.


One Response to Searching for Sugar Man

  1. […] New review of “Waiting for Sugar Man“. […]

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