Searching for Sugar Man is a documentary film directed by Malik Bendjelloul, which details the efforts of two Cape Town fans in the late 1990s, Stephen 'Sugar' Segerman and Craig Bartholomew Strydom, to find out whether the rumoured death of American musician Sixto Rodriguez was true, and, if not, to discover what had become of him. Rodriguez's music, which never took off in the United States, had become wildly popular in South Africa, but little was known about him there.
Initially using Super 8 film to record stylised shots for the movie, director Malik Bendjelloul ran out of money for more film to record the final few shots. He resorted to filming the remaining stylised shots on his smartphone using an iPhoneapp called 8mm Vintage Camera to complete the film.
Searching for Sugar Man was the opening film at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2012, where it won the Special Jury Prize and the Audience Award for best international documentary. It was released in the United Kingdom on 26 July 2012, and had a limited release (New York and Los Angeles) in the United States the following day.
Critical response for Searching for Sugar Man has been very positive. The film currently holds a 96 percent "Certified Fresh" rating on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a glowing four-star review, writing "I hope you're able to see this film...and yes, it exists because we need for it to."The New York Times critic Manohla Dargis also wrote a positive review, calling the film "... a hugely appealing documentary about fans, faith and an enigmatic Age of Aquarius musician who burned bright and hopeful before disappearing." Critic Dargis subsequently named Searching for Sugar Man one of the 10 best films of 2012.
The film's narrative omits that Rodriguez was also very successful in Australia in the 1970s and became aware of it enough to tour there extensively in 1979 and 1981. Some critics have taken issue with this, calling it "myth-making". However, the film focuses on his mysterious reputation in South Africa, and the attempts of music historians there to track him down in the mid-1990s. South Africans, and especially the main protagonists, were unaware of his Australian success due to the harsh censorship enacted by the apartheid regime coupled with international sanctions made any communication with the outside world on the subject of banned artists virtually impossible.
Searching for Sugar Man won the Best Documentary category at the 85th Academy Awards. Rodriguez declined to attend the award ceremony as he didn't want to overshadow the filmmakers' achievement if he came up on stage with them. Upon accepting his award, Chinn remarked on such generosity, "That just about says everything about that man and his story that you want to know.” However, Malik Bendjelloul also said on stage, "Thanks to one of the greatest singers ever, Rodriguez."
The International Documentary Association (IDA) awarded "Searching for Sugar Man" Best Feature and Best Music at the 28th Annual IDA Documentary Awards on 7 December 2012 at the Directors Guild of America building, Los Angeles, California.
It also won Best Documentary during Critics' Choice Awards – Searching for Sugar Man
Searching for Sugar Man won the Special Jury Prize and the Audience Award for best international documentary at the Sundance Film Festival. The film also won the Audience Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival, the Audience Award at the Durban International Film Festival, the Audience Award at the Melbourne Film Festival, 2nd place Winner Audience Award at the Tribeca Film Festival and the Grand Jury Prize at the Moscow International Film Festival.
At the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam held in November 2012, "Searching for Sugar Man" won both the Audience and the Best Music Documentary awards.
Doha Tribeca Film Festival (DTFF) "Searching for Sugar Man" was awarded $50,000 (US) where the film shared the "Best of the Fest" audience award with the Chinese feature film "Full Circle.
The Cinema Eye Honors for Nonfiction Filmmaking has nominated "Searching for Sugar Man" for five awards, tying with "The Imposter" for the most nominations. Winners of the 6th Annual Cinema Eye Honors will be announced on 9 January 2013 as Cinema Eye returns for a third year to New York City's Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, New York.
Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking – Malik Bendjelloul and Simon Chinn
Production – Simon Chinn
Graphic Design and Animation – Oskar Gullstrand, Arvid Steen
Searching for Sugar Man is a 2012 soundtrack album from the documentary containing a compilation of songs by Rodriguez from his two studio albums. As a result of the popularity of the documentary, the album climbed surprisingly high for a soundtrack album in many national album charts. In Sweden, it reached #3 in early 2013 when the Academy Award nomination was announced, and had been in the charts for 26 weeks by the time it received the award in February 2013; in Denmark it reached #18; and in New Zealand it reached #24.
"Sugar Man" (3:50)
"Crucify Your Mind" (2:32)
"I Wonder" (2:34)
"Like Janis" (2:37)
"This Is Not a Song, It's an Outburst: Or, the Establishment Blues" (2:07)
"Can't Get Away" (3:56)
"I Think of You" (3:26)
"Inner City Blues" (3:27)
"Sandrevan Lullaby – Lifestyles" (6:39)
"Street Boy" (3:47)
"A Most Disgusting Song" (4:48)
"I'll Slip Away" (2:51)
"Jane S. Piddy" (3:00)
Tracks 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 9 and 14 are taken from the album Cold Fact
Tracks 7, 11 and 13 were recorded for Rodriguez' unfinished third album and were later included as bonus tracks on the Coming from Reality 2009 US re-issue
In anticipation of possible customer questions raised by the film as to whether Rodríguez is properly compensated for this album, the back cover has the statement, "Rodríguez receives royalties from the sale of this release."