As I alluded to in my review of ‘Sound City’ I also took ‘Searching For Sugar Man’ on my 7 hour flight. Off the bat, I’ll be clear I’m not going to compare this to ‘Sound City’. Films are like children, making comparisons between two works of creativity is meaningless.
I had heard great things about this movie, so many people had said to me that I must see it - they were right.
Searching For Sugar Man is the story of a ‘Dylanesque’ artist by the name of Sixto Rodriguez who emerged in the seventies, made two albums and then seemingly disappeared without a trace and never to be seen again. He never made any real impact on the US music market with both albums being low sellers. Stories of his disappearance ranged from him shooting himself, setting himself on fire whilst on stage and many other myths - no one seems to know the truth.
Fast forward to a later date in South Africa and we meet a record store owner, he talks about how much the music of Sixto Rodriguez inspired the South African people during apartheid, in the words of this man ‘he was bigger than Elvis’.
He is joined by a South African music journalist who both want to know who Sixto Rodriguez was and what happened to him, so they set off on an investigation.
For fear of spoiling any of the story for you, I’ll stop there, but I will say the rest of the movie is astounding, moving and poignant.
It is a movie that every musician, especially those who feel forgotten or disenfranchised, should watch. It is at times haunting, bewitching, enigmatic and a really good whodunit. It certainly asks questions about the ethics about the music industry and getting monies to artists that are rightfully theirs to have. In particular the scene where his manager is asked what happened to the money is worth the price of the ticket alone.
The film does (as most films do) take some liberties with the truth to make a good story even better, but on the whole those liberties do not diminish the core truth of the story. It is a story of how even the most talented musicians can be consigned to obscurity.
See this movie as soon as you can - it is without a doubt in my opinion one of the best music documentaries to date.