Searching For Sugar Man [Celluloid Hero]
Searching For Sugar Man (2012)
I consider myself a musician at heart. I’ve played drums since I was a child, I’ve been in and out of a few bands, and I always have the desire to play live. One of the eternal struggles of a musician is the idea of “selling out”, playing for money as opposed to love. Are you willing to compromise yourself for fame and fortune, or would you rather be a starving artist doing what you believe is true to your ideas and morals?
“Searching for Sugarman” is a documentary about the musical career of Rodriguez. He started in Detroit in the 1970s, and had menial success in area bars. Not much was known about him off of the stage, and eventually his star faded. However, he somehow managed to become a success half a world away in South Africa.
Lots of American music takes time to reach South Africa, so this all happens years later. His album is beloved, but little is known about him personally. Rumors that he killed himself onstage (by gun or self-immolation) feed into the mysterious aura around him. Finally a few filmmakers researching him discover that he’s still alive and well, working construction in Detroit.
I’ve read some criticisms that counter the movie’s idea that Rodriguez simply disappeared when his album wasn’t a success, and he had actually been performing for years. I feel that takes away from the main point, that this performer was overlooked by American audiences but embraced by South African. The real controversy should have been the focus on the money that he was owed by record labels. He put out an album that was critically acclaimed but publicly ignored in his own country, but sold an incredible amount overseas. Despite those sales, he still lives in his old house in Detroit, still working construction every day.
“Searching for Sugarman” is a beautiful documentary about the music business. Some of the facts may be a bit skewed, but no documentary is 100% unbiased. If you are a performer, or know someone who is, or have any love for music, you should check it out.
On the [Celluloid Hero] scale, “Searching for Sugar Man” gets a 9 out of 10.