Review – Searching For Sugar Man

Music is a mysterious medium. We marvel at people who make it with ease because sometimes a three minute song can change your life. The documentary ‘Searching For Sugar Man’ follows the trail of one of the music industry’s greatest unsolved mysteries surrounding 70s musician Rodriguez, who disappeared after a short career as a recording artist, and uncovers a few reasons why music makes our souls sing.

Poignant from the strum of the first chord it’s a joy to discover the music of Rodriguez that’s featured throughout the film. Lots of music producers who worked with the man are interviewed and they put him on a high pedestal with a few suggesting him greater than Bob Dylan as a singer/songwriter. Luckily, their claims are easily backed up in each Rodriguez track and the soundtrack may find its way into your collection shortly after (think Dylan laced with a little Cat Stevens).

One of the most interesting things about the documentary is that the music is just the beginning of a fascinating story and director, Malik Bendjelloul does a great job of establishing the myth surrounding Rodriguez. The man is built up and bombshells are dropped early in the film without getting to any of the really good stuff. Bendjelloul is like a musical detective who traces the stories of hardcore fans as they reflect on their quest to find their musical muse. Nothing will prepare you for where the path to Rodriguez leads but in the process a country is liberated, love is found and there is a touching message about finding a place in the world despite life’s obstacles.

For all the time spent digging around the lives of fans and Rodriguez, Bendjellou misses an opportunity to dig deeper into the corrupt business surrounding the music industry and to highlight the financial injustices for artists.

From the humble beginnings of one man and a guitar, through all the ups and downs ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ is an amazing story. If music is the glue of the world then Rodriguez is the super glue.


Cameron Williams
The Popcorn Junkie

‘Searching for Sugar Man’ is playing at the Canberra International Film Festival 9 November 2012 and is currently in limited release in Australia.