Searching for Sugar Man

I don’t watch many documentaries. It’s one of those things I think I should do (like take vitamins every day and read the NY Times more than once a month) but I don’t. This weekend, I did.

Searching for Sugar Man did win the Academy Award this year for Best Documentary, which was enough to get me to add it to my Netflix queue, but I didn’t move it to the top until one of my favorite people mentioned it on Facebook. (And in all honesty, last week I stupidly rented the third Twilight movie and had to turn it off after 10 minutes.  I needed to redeem myself with a higher brow pick. Even if only to myself.)

This movie is awesome. I can’t say too much because what made it especially awesome was knowing absolutely nothing about this Rodriguez fellow.

Here is what I can tell you.

This Bob Dylan-ish type musician (but maybe even better) made two albums right around the time I was born (1969/1970). The president of the record label at the time thinks Rodriguez (the Bob Dylan-ish guy) sold maybe 8 copies in the U.S.. The people who heard it thought it was amazing, but apparently Latin singers (even if they sound like Bob Dillon) were not selling in the U.S. at the time or for some reason unknown, he just didn’t take off.

A bootleg copy of his first album found its way to South Africa and somehow spread like wild fire and became the anthem for the Anti-Apartheid movement but NO ONE IN THE UNITED STATED KNEW! South Africa was not exactly announcing to the world that all of this was going on and this was before CNN and the Internet. I don’t even think they had television in South Africa at this time (this was in the movie, I think.) His albums sold something like 500 million copies in South Africa and NO ONE IN THE UNITED STATED KNEW! (someone was getting royalties but no one will admit it.)

Many years later, after the internet was invented, two guys in South Africa decide to find out more about this Rodriguez fellow.  They heard some crazy rumors about his death (that he killed himself on stage either by lighting himself on fire or shooting himself) but they  knew nothing else about him.

This movie is about their quest to learn more about their music idol, Rodriquez (who is bigger than Elvis in South Africa) and what they find out. It is a really good movie. I watched the whole thing and didn’t play Dots once. It is suspenseful, surprising, moving, and inspirational. And this guy’s music is not bad (and I am not a Bob Dylan fan.)

Watch it. It is totally worth 1 1/2 hours of your time.

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