This documentary has already been the recipient of glowing reviews and plaudits from other areas of the world, so maybe this is why I was left a teensy bit disappointed. Searching for Sugar Man concerns itself with Rodriguez, a singer/songwriter who released two albums in the early 70s before disappearing into obscurity. Now almost universally recognised as brilliant records, fame eluded Rodriguez in the US. On the other side of the world, however, in apartheid South Africa, his works became huge hits.
The film opens with Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman, record store owner and self-styled musical detective, relating the mythology that surrounds the demise of the mysterious Rodriguez. The most common tales culminate in Rodriguez suiciding on stage, either with a gun to the head or through self-immolation. From there, the film jumps back and forth between South Africa and Detroit to discover who Rodriguez was and why he didn’t receive the success he deserved.
I’ve become increasingly cynical towards documentaries over the years, mainly because of their tendency to create a narrative out of real life. It’s an understandable trait of the genre – who’d want to watch a documentary with no narrative trajectory? – but sometimes it feels forced. The selective unravelling of the ‘mystery’ at the centre of Searching for Sugar Man occasionally feels a little contrived. At one stage an interviewee is reading from liner notes on a CD and we can see the filmmakers have cut out a crucial sentence, presumably in the interests of revealing the information bit by bit. Perhaps it’s an unfair criticism, but I was brothered by moments where the filmRating: