September 04, 2012

MOVIES: Searching for Sugar Man (2012, Malik Bendjelloul)

Too many of the reviews of the documentary Searching for Sugar Man have given away too much of the story, which is a shame, because the movie is (among other things) a delightful study in the art of knowing how and when to reveal information.

The opening scene sets up all you really should know about the movie. We meet Steve Segerman, a South African record store owner who tells us about his love of Rodriguez, an obscure Dylanesque American singer-songwriter who released two albums in the early 1970s. The albums vanished without notice in the US, but bootleg copies were popular in South Africa, where some of the songs became anthems for the growing anti-apartheid movement.

The mystery, Segerman tells us, is what ever became of Rodriguez; there are reports of a horrific on-stage suicide, but beyond that, there's no information anywhere about the man. That sets Segerman and a journalist friend on a quest to find out whatever happened to Rodriguez, and their search is the story of the movie.

It's a wonderfully entertaining story, filled with suspense, unexpected plot twists, shocking revelations, and a tremendously moving ending. Very highly recommended.

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