Saturday, March 9, 2013

Searching for Sugar Man

Watched a gripping documentary, Searching for Sugar Man, about an obscure Detroit Dylan-esque protest singer, Sixto Rodriguez, who made two albums in 1970 and 71, and then 'disappeared without trace'. Unbeknownst to him and pretty much the rest of the world, he'd somehow become a megastar in apartheid Africa. It seemed that everyone with a social conscience had a copy of one of those two albums even though nobody knew who on earth Rodriguez was. In fact most people thought he'd killed himself.

The film traces the efforts of two Cape Town fans who finally tracked him down and then subsequently invited him to play some concerts in South Africa at the end of the 90s. The suspense (and myth-making) is beautifully built up. It's only about two-thirds the way though that we actually get to meet him; up until then we're not totally sure if he's for real. It's emotional too: when he walks on to the stage at the end, there's no music for ten minutes - just 5,000 people applauding and welcoming him 'home'.
The only grumble is its toying around with facts, or rather its omissions. Actually, he was pretty successful in Australia for a while - though to be fair, the two South African fans didn't know that. It's that whole movie thing about what makes a better story: fact or fiction, true story or based on a true story (see also Argo post a few days ago).

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