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Searching for Sugar Man (Blu-ray Review)

26 Jan, 2013 By: Angelique Flores

Sony Pictures
Box Office $3.14 million
$30.99 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for brief strong language and some drug references.

Sixto Rodriguez is a talented singer-songwriter from Detroit who put out two albums around 1970. Top record executives and producers expected the albums to be a smash, but they tanked.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez’s socially charged songs became a soundtrack for the people of South Africa, who were going through social turmoil while fighting against apartheid. Though the musician lived a simple life as a construction worker in Detroit, he was a superstar in South Africa, where various stories of a gruesome suicide circulated, leaving many to believe he was dead.

This riveting documentary tracks Rodriguez’s popularity in South Africa and how two fans there — a music journalist and a record-store owner — set out to find out more about his life and exactly how he died, only to find out he was alive and well and unaware of his popularity in South Africa. After being rediscovered in the late 1990s, Rodriguez has since played concerts to sold-out, adoring crowds in South Africa.

Using animation in place of old footage and photos that didn’t exist, the film results in a sublime creativity and minimalism that echoes the subject of the documentary.

The bonus materials take you further into the subject, offering more insight not only to the director’s journey of discovering the story of Rodriguez and bringing it to cinematic life, but also giving a greater look at Rodriguez himself, who talks a little more about his music here than in the movie. He remains reticent about his private life in the extras, as he does in the film.

The “Making Sugar Man” featurette unveils the creativity and ingenuity Swedish filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul employed in order to get the film made. The first-time director had little money to make the film, and unable to afford animators and composers, he took classes so he could do those jobs himself.

The commentary with Bendjelloul and Rodriguez adds even more depth to Rodriguez’s story as well as to the resourcefulness of Bendjelloul during the filmmaking process. The featurette “An Evening With Malik Bendjelloul and Rodriguez” features Rodriguez and the director in a Q&A and a solo acoustic performance of a song by Rodriguez.

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