April 22, 2014


We've all had that feeling of loving some piece of art - some creative expression that speaks to us and us alone, that moves us in an extremely personal way. But imagine, if you will, living under a repressive regime, and discovering hope in an American folk singer....who never had the glory or attention in his native land, but who sells multiple units in your part of the globe.

That's the premise of Searching for Sugarman, a great documentary from last year that should be on your must-view list.

The movies focuses on a group of South African fans of a singer named Rodriguez, who released two little-heard albums (and worked on a third) in the United States. If all this film did was look at an artist in his native habitat (in this case, a decaying Detroit), and/or examine the forces which led to his lack of success (or even limited success), this movie would be a masterpiece. (And yes, Rodriguez' music deserves attention - it's glorious sounding, soulful, and worth owning on compact disc).

But the movie goes several steps further, looking at layers of myth and legend around the artist. Examining how South Africans embraced an American artist, and how a group of concerned fans attempted to "follow the money" to find him. (When Sixto Rodriguez is finally located, it feels less like an obvious plot point...and more like a moment of surprise and joy. Yes, the direction on this documentary is that good).

Thankfully, once Rodriguez is discovered, the movie does something remarkable - it hits familiar beats, but does so without any trace of obviousness. If you're expecting a Behind the Music-style expose, you'll be sadly disappointed. Searching for Sugarman is a film infused with joy, sparkling with wonder, and quite simply, will warm even the hardest of cynical hearts.

And is has one killer soundtrack.

So do yourself a favor - rent this DVD or check to see if it's streaming. You'll be glad you caught this film....oh, and if you missed buying me a gift for my birthday, you can take me to see Rodriguez at the Chicago Theater on May 14th.

This is worth watching. You'll thank me later.

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