Movies, Music

Searching For Sugar Man: A Review

Usually people will comment on what a small world we live in. Coincidences and connections make our planet seem far smaller than we would like to believe. The documentary Searching for Sugar Man will make you feel like the opposite is true. It makes one realize that our world is so big that one side can be totally oblivious to what the other side is doing.

Sugar Man was a song recorded by the artist Rodriguez in 1970. Sixto Rodriguez lived in the Detroit area his whole life and grew up in working class surroundings. He mostly worked in automobile factories and construction sites. Most people that knew of him said he looked homeless. Rodriguez ended up recording an album in the states and it went absolutely no where. No one had ever heard of Rodriguez. Have you heard of him? Yeah, I didn’t think so.Searching-For-Sugarman

Somehow, one of his records was brought to South Africa. It was bootlegged and sold so often in Cape Town that eventually everyone had a copy. It was one of the most popular records of all time. Rodriguez was a South African legend and he never knew. He just kept working hard labor jobs and trying to scrape by.

The funny thing is, South Africans didn’t know anything about the singer/songwriter that they adored. They only had his album cover to go by. That’s all they knew about him. Nothing was written of him online, no one had heard of him since. Piecing together clues from his lyrics and using the help of mangers from record companies, two of Rodriguez’s biggest fans searched for him and found answers to all the mysteries surrounding the musician.

I begrudgingly went with my husband to the theater last night to see this documentary with him. Hearing the title, I convinced myself that I wouldn’t enjoy it and that my husband would end up owing me. To be honest, I think I liked the movie more than he did. Nah, I think we both would give it 5 stars. It’s a great film. I don’t often refer to movies as “films” but this one deserves it. I didn’t give too much of anything away in my synopsis, so I urge you to find it and give it a watch. It’s still playing in some artsy theaters, but hopefully it will be released on DVD soon.


25 thoughts on “Searching For Sugar Man: A Review

    • Yeah definitely! Well, I live on a little hippie Canadian island so we get more artsy, cultural movies than most places. Lucky me!
      I can’t speak for the rest of Canada though…!

    • Hahah ohhh man you caught me! But seriously, when I first started this blog all I did was write about Canada and constantly rag on them. But now I’m nicer….kinda… 😉

  1. That film sounds like a fantastic story. How weird that the musician and his fans just lived in almost two completely different worlds. Neither one knowing of the other. I have to see this film.

    • You would love it! It’s so bizarre when you watch it for exactly the reason you listed. It’s like, how can this be real? Definitely find it and watch it. I’m sure you’ll like his music too!

  2. Chantel Topham says:

    My friend from South Africa told me about this guy!! How crazy would that be?? You could be a blogging superstar-legend somewhere where ppl pretty much worship you and you don’t even know it. I bet you are, you should look into it.

    • Hah omg you should go see the movie! It’s at Cinecenta!
      But yeah, you’re totally right! I’m probably huge in a different country and they probably worship idols of me or something.
      Ps. we should hang soon!

  3. I was watching a thing on PBS a few months back about the African song that was basically the source of the really popular song from the 60s “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” (Haha the one from The Lion King.) It had a similar backstory in that the African artist who popularized it and brought it to the attention of the American artists who would go on to make it insanely famous, never reached worldwide acclaim and actually died fairly young virtually as poor as he was when he was born. It’s kind of sad when these artists never get the recognition they deserve.

    • That’s crazy! But yeah it’s pretty much the same story. But this one has a really good, rewarding ending. It is sad though. Even in the world we live in today, where everyone seems so connected, to not know about something that is such a big part of a nation’s upbringing. Blows my mind!

    • My husband called me today and told me that Rodriguez went triple platinum in Australia too, so it makes sense to me now! That’s amazing. You and your Aussie adventures! Lucky son of a gun. Have an amazing time and take lots of pictures! I’m sure you will!

    • Well, there are people in the film and people had to have sex in order for them to be alive, so I guess you could say that there is sex involved.

  4. Gpalmer says:

    I bought my copy of Cold Fact 40 years ago this month in a downtown record shop in Johannesburg. I was 16 at the time – so I played a small part in this endearing story.

    But I must correct this notion that the album was heavily bootlegged. This is not true. My copy was a studio-pressing by A&M in the UK (the copy was what we called an “import” and was a little more expensive than the local pressings – ie: copies pressed in SA).

    MOST people bought legitimate copies because taped copies were awful quality. Remember – this is the early 1970’s, and the only way to make atape is to stick a microphone between the speakers of the record player and hope that nobody came into the room, or coughed, or farted… It was a hassle to make a tape recording, and besides, the sound quality was terrible.

    Also bear in mind that most (85%) of popular music was not aired over the radio (there was no TV in South Africa until January 1976).

    So the only way we could get a quality listen, would be through a good vinyl pressing. Some of us (like me0 would go for an imported pressing because we felt it was even better quality, and often the sleeve would have notes on it that the local pressing often ommitted.

    But MOST. people bought legitimate recordings – only a handful of people would put up with the inferior quality of a bootleg.

    Look at the evidence… the SA record companies admit to selling 500,000 copies. These were LEGAL, LEGITIMATE copies, made under license or imported from the recording company either in the UK or the USA.

    This amounts to a Rodriguez album being owned by one in ten people amongst the white population in SA.

    When I heard that Rodriguez had never made a penny out of these sales it broke my heart. I (and most other South Africans) had paid legitimately for his music.

    I intend to buy the movie soundtrack CD… (I already bought the DVD).

    • Yeah I know what you’re saying. I didn’t mean that it was illegally copied all over SA, I just meant that it’s possible that it was illegally taken to SA in the first place. I would definitely assume that most copies were real. I didn’t know the DVD of the movie was available yet–I’ll have to go get it! Thanks for reading!

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