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Searching for Sugar Man - Film Review

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by Richard Leathem (subscribe)
Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
Published February 21st 2013
In a good year for docos, Searching for Sugar Man is undoubtedly the most emotionally satisfying to hit the big screen.

This is one of those films where the less you know about it the better, although it may be hard to avoid the details given how many awards the film has been racking up lately.

What I will tell you is that the Sugar Man of the title is Sixto Rodriguez, an American singer songwriter, who in the early 70's made a couple of records that were roundly ignored in his home land, and everywhere else, with the exception of two countries. He had a moderate amount of success in Australia (although this isn't mentioned in the film) and became a phenomenon in South Africa.

That Rodriguez was as big as the Beatles in South Africa was something that he didn't know about, and South Africa knew very little about him. All they knew about him was that he was American and he committed suicide by setting himself on fire on stage during a performance.

A dedicated fan in South Africa started his own dogged investigation into the mysterious Rodriguez, which is where Searching for Sugar Man begins its bizarre and wonderful journey. It's a journey that touches on race relations in both countries, the cut throat and corrupt nature of the music industry and the power that music has to transport and inspire. Mostly though it's a portrait of a truly unique individual.

Like a great work of fiction, Sugar Man is cleverly constructed and builds to a dramatic climax which is quite spine tingling.

If you haven't heard Rodriguez's music before, you're likely to want to hear more after seeing this. It feels only just that thanks to this film, his music has been introduced to a new generation.

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Why? A documentary better than most films you'll see this year.
Where: At selected cinemas
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