Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Search for Sugar Man Rodriguez

After watching Searching for Sugar Man at Melbourne’s Shadow Electric open-air cinema last night, the full house must have had only one thought: where do you get Rodriguez’s records.

This quality documentary throws up all the clich├ęs: amazing, incredible, heartwarming, authentic, genuine, too-good-to-be-true. Like more than one of interviewees in the film, there was a niggling doubt throughout that this couldn’t be a factual account, that it is an elaborate fabrication.

Detroit local Sixto Rodriguez made two albums in the early 1970s, which bombed in his home country but were very successful in apartheid South Africa and later. Many of his fans were white opponents of the regime.

His fate was a mystery He was rumoured to have committed suicide but fans such as Steve 'Sugar' Segerman kept the quest alive. Sixto was unaware of his fame. This is the story of the search for this unlikely musical icon.

The Independent has an excellent interview with Director/writer Malik Bendjelloul. When he discovered the mystery of Rodriguez, he felt it was “the best story I’d ever heard”. It certainly is one of the best. Not too many cinema audiences applaud as ours did during the credits.

Malik also answers a lingering question ‘Was it only white South Africans that were fans of Rodriguez?’ Do yourself a favour and read the conversation, but not before seeing the film.

One of the highlights is meeting his daughters: Regan, Eva and Sandra. It’s clear that his unique approach to life has rubbed off on them, except for his laconic nature. Rodriguez’s workmates help us to understand their mate. Fellow construction worker Rick Emmerson helps to reveal a little of the enigmatic Sixto. He’s a silver-tongued fellow philosopher. Rodriguez has a Bachelor of Arts with a philosophy major.

There is lots of stuff about Rodriquez at Segerman’s official website –‘all the facts’, backed up by a Facebook page, and a twitter account @sugar_man.

Please see Wikipedia for the latest.

To finish, a couple of verses from the song Sugar Man from his first album Cold Fact:

Sugar man, won't you hurry
'Cos I'm tired of these scenes
For a blue coin won't you bring back
All those colors to my dreams

Sugar man you're the answer
That makes my questions disappear
Sugar man 'cos I'm weary
Of those double games I hear

I give it 5 stars - because I can.