Searching for Sugar Man - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Searching for Sugar Man Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ April 7, 2013
A riveting, incredible documentary about the talented musician Rodriguez and how, after two hit albums in the 1970's, disappeared seemingly into thin air. After two of his biggest fans decide to attempt to track him down even though rumors persist that he's dead, they stumble upon more parts to their hero's amazing true story. This is a story that is almost too special to believe it is true, but the film strikes a genuine tone that is as interested as the viewer to get to the bottom of this mysterious man. Without revealing too much, this is one of the best documentaries made in quite some time, close to perfect. A must-see for any music fan or avid follower of documentaries.
Super Reviewer
March 21, 2013
Maybe a must watch for the hardcore fans of Sixto Rodriguez, but to me (never heard the guy's name before; gave it a shot simply because the documentary synopsis had a mystic touch to it), it's as watchable as skipable. The first half is quite interesting, but then it (understandably) gets repetitive. Might have liked it better had it being cut to the chase ;-)
axadntpron
Super Reviewer
½ March 11, 2013
This film unfortunately suffered from the hype machine. Had I stumbled upon this documentary while scanning for late night entertainment, then I admit I would probably be much more impressed than I am right now.

With so much praise being heaped on this film, I was expecting something a bit more probing and/or profound. Instead, I got a delightful little doc about a humble American folk singer who after years of drowning in myth and obscurity, discovered that his art has touched the lives of millions in other parts of the globe.

It doesn't villify the music industry or spend too much time looking to assign blame. Rather, it seeks to celebrate. Not only the artist Rodriguez, but the power of music. Sounds rather cliche, but Searching For Sugar Man somehow manages to make it feel fresh.

While not one of the more exciting films to be released this year, Sugar Man will surely leave a smile on your face.
Super Reviewer
February 23, 2013
A well shot and produced doc with a fascinating story. It's hard to wrap your mind around something like this story playing out when we've lived so long in a world connected online. I doubt we will be able to have a story such as this happen again.
Super Reviewer
½ January 20, 2013
A very surprising and extremely moving documentary that begins as a fascinating mystery and then grows into a revelatory true story about a star who never was but who ironically became a major idol in South Africa - influencing a whole generation without even knowing about it.
Super Reviewer
December 30, 2012
Some stories are so crazy, that knowing it is real is even crazier. "Searching for Sugar Man" is a documentary about a little known singer named Rodriguez. He's the greatest 70's rock icon that never was. He made 2 albums and both literally sold nothing, and he was assumed dead with several stories about his death. Unbeknownst to the United States, his albums have sold over 500,000 copies in South Africa. In the mid 90's a couple of music journalists set out to find out anything and everything about him. Is he dead? If so, how? These are the questions they need answered, and what they get is something they never expected. It's fascinating and one of the most uplifting movies I've seen all year. I, like everyone else, has never heard of Rodriguez, but now, I'm sure I'll be downloading his songs. His music is very good, and I'm sure if he had the right breaks, he would have been huge here in the U.S. also. This is one of the best documentaries I've ever seen and movie all music fans will enjoy.
Bathsheba Monk
Super Reviewer
October 31, 2012
What a wonderfully heartbreaking story. The most any artist can hope for is that his/her work will inspire or speak to someone, the wild fantasy is that it will inspire a lot of people. Rodriguez had the wonderful experience of knowing that his work spoke to an entire nation and showed them another way to be in the world.
Super Reviewer
½ September 23, 2012
A truly great documentary that starts out as a mystery and slowly becomes something else completely - something bizarre, sad, and most importantly: inspiring.
Super Reviewer
½ July 31, 2012
A fascinating documentary about a musician where fame aluded him and the mystery that surrounded him. One of my favourites of the year so far.
c0up
Super Reviewer
June 6, 2012
Searching for Sugar Man. A man getting paid his dues 20 years later in the most magical of ways. Simply remarkable!

A musician lighting himself on fire while on stage, committing suicide in the most horrific of ways. A fan's recollection is how Searching for Sugar Man starts.

What a story.

Sixto Diaz Rodriguez AKA Rodriguez writing and performing his poetic, grim observations of the working class and their unfair treatment in Detroit, circa mid-1970s. The hopes and dreams of being signed to a label, with Bob Dylan comparisons. A gig gone bad and the unpredictable music industry in the U.S. not paying an announce of attention. Dead in America, metaphorically, and literally, to those in South Africa, where he was kind of a big deal!

South Africa at the height of Apartheid is something I've never explored. I was astounded to hear the levels of control the government enforced, from controlling the news cycle to scratching out tracks containing unruly lyrics on I Wonder. Amidst all this, a copy of Rodriguez's album, Cold Fact, makes its way into South Africa. It's heard at a party. The anti-establishment lyrics instantly connect. Bootlegging ensues, word spreads, and Rodriguez is the voice of a movement. This isn't cult status we're talking, this is BIGGER THAN ELVIS. Bigger than The Rolling Stones. The impact and influence his music had is mind-boggling.

Rodriguez was none the wiser. Even with the bootlegging, Cold Fact went Gold ten times over. I won't get into the farce of loyalties and Sussex; needless to say, Rodriguez wasn't informed, and the people of South Africa are left wondering who this mysterious man is. There was nothing ever written about him in American publications, and the record sleeve had three names is all. No one knew where he was from, his real name, or how he died.

Two men wondered a little more than the rest. When the CD was finally released in the early 90s in South Africa, one wrote the intro to the inside sleeve, and asked why they know so little about Rodriguez. The other man saw said sleeve. They got in contact, exchanged notes, made a breakthrough about where Rodriguez was from, via his lyrics, and created a website to search for more information about the Sugar Man.

Getting in contact with Rodriguez's former producer leads to excitement and a million questions, not the least of which is, "How did Rodriguez die?". "What do you mean, die? He's very much alive".

I'd enjoyed the heck out of this documentary up to this point. It got infinitely better.

The revelation that Rodriguez was alive, going about his everyday construction job, never overly mournful about his "failed" music career was enough. He gets in contact with the two South African fans. They have the conversation of their life. Again, I was content.

It's still not over though, folks.

Sixto Diaz Rodriguez sells out 5 concerts in a triumphant tour of South Africa, 20 odd years after his music reached their shores. On stage, to a packed audience, and overwhelming adoration, he finds his home.

I'll say it again. What a story!

Documentary filmmakers are incredibly devoted to their craft. I bow down to you, Malik Bendjelloul. I have a newfound love for documentaries that became fully realised at SXSW this year. Searching for Sugar Man is up there with the best of what I've seen.

As much as I admire screenplays and fictional writing, there are millions of unbelievable, fascinating, real stories about this world that need to be told, and I love the Documentary for doing that.

I had no idea what to expect going into Searching for Sugar Man. All I'd heard was that it won the Audience Award at Sundance 2012. I'm glad I knew nothing else, and I came out of this learning a hell of a lot, beaming ear to ear.
El Z.
Super Reviewer
October 21, 2012
One of the most amazing stories I have ever heard. You have never seen anything like this. Find this movie and go see it now.
Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
½ September 26, 2012
In 1970, a singer/songwriter by the name of Rodriguez is signed to a recording contract by a couple of music producers after they see him perform in a dive bar in Detroit. After selling an amount of albums in the range of mid single figures, the record label summarily drops him. And he is never heard of again.

Except...one of his records soon ends up in South Africa.(A possibility involves a visiting American.) And the music's anti-authoritarian lyrics fuel the Afrikaans anti-apartheid resistance and Rodriguez' music develops a huge following there. Some of his fans become curious about Rodriguez, with the only available information coming from his records. The story goes that he committed suicide on stage, dousing himself in gasoline and lighting himself on fire.

Except...no, that would be telling.


"Searching for Sugar Man" is a fascinating documentary that tells an incredible story while structured expertly to sustain the mystery. In the end, maybe fact is not that much stranger than fiction. The documentary is very well filmed with some very cool sporadic uses of animation.(In which case, does this or "Detropia" photograph the ruins of Detroit better?) But there is nothing new here that we have not heard before about the music industry that had no idea what to do with Rodriguez' music who I would classify as Bob Dylan with a decent singing voice. The important thing here is that success is in the eye of the beholder

Music is not the only subject of interest, as the documentary also provides keen insights into apartheid era South Africa, especially in the activism, cultural isolation and censorship of the time.(Whoever scratched the records is going to burn in hell where they will be bombarded with the music of boy bands for all eternity.) So, while we can see how much South Africa has changed for the better, the recent bloody miners' strike suggests maybe the new boss is not so different from the old one.
Super Reviewer
October 12, 2012
This is honestly one of the most incredible stories I've ever heard, so incredible that it's almost unbelievable. Searching for Sugar Man is half mystery, half uplifting story of what really matters in life, and completely an amazing movie. The documentary was a passion project for the director, so much so that he spent all the money he had to finish making it. It's fantastic just from a movie-making perspective, but it's truly wonderful for telling the story it does. Sixto Rodriguez was a musician in the early 1970s who, after his two albums garnered great reviews but abysmal sales, stopped making albums and went back to working unglamorous and grueling jobs in his hometown of Detroit. Little did he know that, although he was completely unknown in the United States, his music sold hundreds of thousands of records in South Africa, where he is the most famous musician in the country's history. He recieved none of the profits from the bootleg record sales, and had no idea that anybody knew his music, let alone an entire country. The movie chronicles two South Africans who investigate what happened to Rodriguez, with the only clue they have being the cover of his first album and the lyrics to his music. It's a story that must be seen to be believed, but it is wonderfully inspirational and beautiful, and tells a tale that deserves to be seen and heard.
Super Reviewer
½ August 20, 2013
A superb mystery-documentary telling the true story of a largely unknown musician and the investigation into what/why things happened, eventually separating the myths from the (just as fascinating) truths. A joy.
Super Reviewer
January 22, 2013
"Searching for Sugar Man" is an amazing true story and the creators of this film are master storytellers, delivering a powerful plot progression that starts you off with a "hypothesis", leads you through their research, and leads to the epic discovery of a man that everyone in South Africa thought was dead. To have this musician's story played out for you, thinking he is dead until the moment of their realization, and then, to have this musician be apart of the film through interviews and footage of his return to music, makes for one of the most memorable music documentaries I've ever witnessed. It's a tale that is both heartbreaking and uplifting, with a man that truly deserves recognition but is content living an average life.
Super Reviewer
January 21, 2013
This was one of my top 10 films of 2012 and that is certainly something a little out of character for me as it is a documentary. Documentaries aren't usually included in my favorites list at the end of the year but this film was certainly too stirring, too emotional, and left so much of an impact on me that I could not ignore my love for it. It is pretty much a lock for best documentary at the Oscars next month and I couldn't agree with that more and highly recommend this to anyone who loves music and the intrigue of the music industry. In what is truly a story so unbelievable it could only be true director Malik Bendjelloul has explored the mythos of late-60's singer/songwriter Rodriguez whose career never took off in the United States after two failed records but inadvertently became bigger than Elvis in South Africa. The stories surrounding the singer, his death, his music and his lyrics are all truly fascinating. You don't necessarily even have to be a music lover to enjoy the film, you could love a good mystery or maybe yearn for a true type of period piece and this documentary delivers more than something satisfying. The film makes you ask questions of mortality, destiny, and justice. I went in not knowing anything about the film, its story, or even who it concerned and I would recommend that for any viewer. It certainly makes the intrigue and viewing experience all the more satisfying. There has been some speculation about the full truth of the story and how much of what is on screen was bent for purposes of being more fantastic or even omitted to make it more unbelievable and I certainly can see why this would be done, but from what I've read it doesn't really take away from what this film delivers on a personal level. It is still very much one of my favorites of last year and I dare you not to fall in love with the music of Rodriguez after watching it.
JC
Super Reviewer
½ January 13, 2013
A remarkable heart & soul documentary of a very talented and sweet human being. How someone could not like the man, his music and the movie that searches for him is beyond me but five RT critics deemed it rotten. Hope it wins best doc 2012 (1-13-13)
Super Reviewer
March 3, 2013
A truly fascinating story that highlights the beautiful music of a man named, Rodriguez. This man from Detroit who wrote like Dylan and sounded like nobody else at that time. Quits after he records his second album and fades into obscurity. Several decades later he learns that his albums sparked a revolution and are both loved and treasured in South Africa.
This picture not only sheds light on his music and life. But, it does something more important. It is really about how his music changed others lives. In ways that he was blissfully unaware of. A very beautiful and touching story. One that should not be missed.
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