From The Hollywood Reporter:
As Searching for Sugar Man recounts, Rodriguez was, in the early 1970s, a singer whom several music industry executives felt was as talented as anyone they’d ever encountered; several likened his distinctive voice and poetic lyrics to those of Bob Dylan, which is no small compliment. He was signed to a record deal but, to their dismay, both of his first two albums, Coming from Reality and Cold Fact, completely flopped, selling only a handful of copies. Not long thereafter, he dropped out of the music and off of their radar altogether. Meanwhile, halfway across the world, bootleg copies of his albums made their way into South Africa and became the soundtrack of the anti-Apartheid movement. To South Africans, though, the the man behind the voice was a complete mystery, and rumors began spreading that he had died the most sensational of deaths. It was only through the relentless efforts of two of South Africa’s most hardcore Rodriguez fans, Stephen “Sugar” Segerman and Craig Bartholomew Strydom (who are prominently featured in the film), that South Africans learned the real story of what happened to Rodriguez and Rodriguez learned the real story of what happened in South Africa.
Of course, most Americans would still not know Rodriguez’s story if not for Bendjelloul, a 35-year-old child actor-turned-TV director who decided to take a backpacking trip across Africa several years ago, during which he first heard Rodriguez’s story and decided to make it the subject of his first feature film, with or without the cooperation of the man himself. In February 2008, with the assistance of Segerman, Bendjelloul got in touch with Rodriguez, who agreed to be interviewed by him in Detroit. “I was skeptical at the beginning,” Rodriguez recalls. But he was ultimately won over by the young filmmaker’s enthusiasm. The resulting film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2012, where it was greeted with a lengthy standing ovation — thanks in no small part to the attendance of Rodriguez, who was introduced as the film came to an end. Its domestic distribution rights were quickly snapped up by Sony Pictures Classics, and it ended up becoming one of the year’s most critically and commercially successful documentaries. “There’s a sense of magic in the story,” even Rodriguez must admit.
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