Searching for Sugar Man

He’s the most famous musician you’ve never heard of.

Two fans set out to discover if the rumored death of Sixto Rodriguez is true.

Thanks to Jilly Perlberger Hollman, Brian Savelson and Eric Sternbach for reminding me to write a review of this awesome doc!

Trailer for “Searching for Sugar Man”

Watch “Searching for Sugar Man”

Release Date: January 19, 2012 (Sundance)

You can stream it for $ on Apple TV, Amazon, YouTube, Fandango Vudu and

It’s $3.59 to $3.99 last I checked

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  • My Rating: 95/100
  • IMDB Rating: 8.2/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes Ratings: 92/100 (Users); 95/100 (Critics)

Review of “Searching for Sugar Man”

If you haven’t seen “Searching for Sugar Man,” you’re missing out on a story so wild, it feels like it should be fiction. But it’s real, and it’s fantastic. Think of it as a Cinderella story with a twist of rock ‘n’ roll and a sprinkle of international mystery. It’s got everything you want in a documentary – heart, suspense, and a heck of a soundtrack.

“Searching for Sugar Man” is about Sixto Rodriguez, a Detroit musician who released two albums in the early ’70s. He vanished into obscurity in the U.S. That’s not unusual in the music biz.

But here’s the kicker: unbeknownst to Rodriguez, he becomes a legend in South Africa. We’re talking about a cult following. His records became the anthems of the anti-apartheid movement. Yet, the man himself had no clue. Imagine being the Bob Dylan of a country and not even knowing it. That’s Rodriguez for you.

The documentary, crafted by Malik Bendjelloul, is like a detective story. It follows two South African fans determined to track down Rodriguez and uncover what happened to him.

The journey takes us through the gritty streets of Detroit and the lush landscapes of Cape Town. We dive into the heart of a musician’s poignant, almost mythical tale. The visuals are stunning, and the narrative is both haunting and hopeful.

Rodriguez’s music was banned from radio airplay in apartheid South Africa due to lyrics deemed anti-establishment. This added to his mystique.

However, the film omits that Rodriguez had a minor following and toured in Australia and New Zealand in the late 1970s. It portrays him as completely unknown outside of South Africa.

While these details might make the narrative more complex, they don’t detract from the core story’s impact. The documentary also exaggerates the link between Rodriguez’s popularity among white liberal youth in South Africa and the anti-apartheid movement, which had been active for decades prior.

The magic of “Searching for Sugar Man” lies in its ability to make you care deeply about a man you’ve never heard of. It’s a testament to the power of music and the resilience of the human spirit. And if you’re not humming “Sugar Man” by the end, check your pulse.

One of the most charming aspects of the film is its raw authenticity. When the filmmakers ran out of budget for actual 8mm film, they used an iPhone app called “8mm Vintage Camera.”

This maintained the documentary’s vintage aesthetic. It’s a clever workaround that adds a layer of indie charm to the whole project. Even the film’s imperfections add to its character – there’s a spelling error in the credits, listing “Mabu Vinly” instead of “Mabu Vinyl.”

These quirks make the film feel like a labor of love rather than a polished Hollywood production.

Rodriguez’s humility is a recurring theme. Despite discovering his unexpected fame in South Africa, he returned to his working-class life in Detroit after touring. This modesty is a refreshing contrast to the often ego-driven music industry.

The documentary connects Rodriguez’s disappearance to rumors that he had committed suicide on stage, though these were likely urban legends. These myths only added to his enigma, enhancing the almost mythical status he had acquired in South Africa.

The documentary doesn’t just tell Rodriguez’s story; it resurrects him. It gives Rodriguez the recognition he so richly deserves. The parts where we see him walking the streets of Detroit, utterly unaware of his fame halfway across the globe, are poignant.

His music, filled with soulful anguish and raw storytelling, underscores every moment. It reminds us why his voice resonated so powerfully with those who heard it.

So, here’s the deal: clear your schedule, grab some popcorn, and dive into this gem. “Searching for Sugar Man” isn’t just a documentary – it’s an experience.

It captures the essence of a true underdog story. The film is infused with the kind of hope and redemption that Hollywood often tries to manufacture but rarely gets right.

And trust me, it’s one you’ll want to share with everyone.

In a world overflowing with content, “Searching for Sugar Man” stands out as a beacon of genuine storytelling. It’s a film that will make you believe in the extraordinary power of music and the enduring spirit of humanity.

In a time when we all could use a bit more magic and mystery in our lives, this documentary delivers in spades.

Thanks for reading!

Rob Kelly, Chief Maniac, Daily Doc