Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Movie Review: Searching For Sugar Man (2012)

Movie: Searching For Sugar Man (2012)
Director: Malik Bendjelloul
Writer: Malik Bendjelloul, 
Cast: Stephen “Sugar” Segerman, Dennis Coffey, Mike Theodore, Rodriguez
One-Line Plot Synopsis: A pair of South Africans decide to find out what happened to the biggest musician of the 70’s in South Africa, Rodriguez.

As is probably the same for the majority of people coming across this documentary, I was not familiar with the musician Rodriguez before seeing this film.  So much so, that he actually played at the 2012 Newport Folk Festival I was at, and not only did I have no idea he was there, I didn’t even register that I had missed him playing.  It would be pretty cool to see him now but as with any music festival, you’re going to miss some people and regret it after you listen to them more a couple of months down the road.
I was so unfamiliar with Rodriguez, that I actually originally thought that the musician that this film was based on was someone named Sugar Man.  As it turns out, Sugar Man is just the name of a South African music enthusiast who decided to try and find out more about the most influential musician in South Africa during the racial and social tension in the country during the 1970’s.  Rodriguez, rightfully described as Dylan-esque, unknowingly took on the role of the ‘voice’ of the young generation throughout the tumultuous civil rights scene while at the same time having a dumbfounding floundering career in the states.  
The film is spearheaded by the efforts of Stephen “Sugar” Segerman to uncover more about the details of Rodriguez’s life after his music had basically become the soundtrack of his young adulthood in South Africa.  With the almost overwhelming amount of information at our fingertips in today’s society, it’s nearly unthinkable that absolutely nothing was known of arguably the biggest musician of the early 70’s of an entire country.  Although many rumors and stories were circulated about the untimely death of Rodriguez throughout South Africa, nothing was known for sure.  The mythical nature of Rodriguez had taken on a life of its own until the day that Stephen Segerman became curious enough to discover the truth about his favorite musician.
Like any documentary, the film hinges on just how interesting the story that his being explored is.  The entertainment value is entirely dependent on the story as there is no room for fabrication or exaggeration in this medium.  Luckily, the story of Rodriguez is fascinating and doesn’t need any glitz or glamour to be added to it to make you want to hear his story.  Something that the film did really well is incorporate his songs into the telling of the story through a variety of ways, whether it be a short animated scene or through photographs and re-tellings of the events in South Africa during the time.
Both the story and the music of the film speak to the sincerity of the actual musician Rodriguez and although the documentarians (not sure if that's a word) may not be that seasoned in the way they are telling it, the material that it is based on is more than enough to make up for it.
Rating: 7.5/10
Side Notes:
  • Soundtrack Rating: 7/10
  • DVD Extras Rating: N/A
  • Song you should listen to from the soundtrack: “I Wonder” by Rodriguez