2012 Sundance Docs in Focus: SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN

Wrapping up this year’s World Cinema Documentary Competition: Swedish/UK film SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN, Malik Bendjelloul’s investigation into a musical mystery.

Sundance Program Description:

Rodriguez was the greatest ’70s U.S. rock icon who never was. His albums were critically well-received, but sales bombed, and he faded away into obscurity among rumors of a gruesome death. However, as fate would have it, a bootleg copy of his record made its way to South Africa, where his music became a phenomenal success. In a country suppressed by apartheid, his antiestablishment message connected with the people.

When his second album finally gets released on CD in South Africa, two fans take it as a sign, deciding to look into the mystery of how Rodriguez died and what happened to all of the profits from his album sales. Since very little information about the singer exists, they meet many obstacles until they uncover a shocking revelation that sets off a wild chain of events that has to be seen to be believed. SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN is a story of hope, inspiration, and the resonating power of music.

Some Background:
Bendjelloul makes his feature debut with this documentary after a series of short docs on musicians. The film shares two Sundance alum producers with fellow 2012 World Cinema Documentary Competition title THE IMPOSTER: Producer Simon Chinn (MAN ON WIRE (2008), PROJECT NIM (2011)) and Executive Producer John Battsek (LILA SAYS (2005), IN PRISON MY WHOLE LIFE (2008), SERGIO (2009), THE TILLMAN STORY (2010)). Co-producer George Chignell served in the same capacity for PROJECT NIM.

Why You Should Watch:
While a very different film from last year’s Sundance Documentary Directing Award winner RESURRECT DEAD, Bendjelloul’s film also employs a similar mystery/quest structure. It draws in the viewer – even if s/he, like me, has never heard of Rodriguez before, and usually doesn’t respond so positively to music docs – and has a great, satisfying payoff.

More Info:
While the film doesn’t have a standalone website, check out Protagonist Pictures page on the doc here. Bendjelloul speaks to Indiewire about the film here. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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