SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN is a strong, beautifully created documentary that is only made better based on your love for music. It chronicles the story of the elusive Sixto Rodriguez, a Detroit hard labor worker who released two separate albums in the early 1970s. For reasons that only the music industry gods might understand, his albums failed to reach any kind of success. Maybe it was because the hermit-like Rodriguez was so fearful and private a man that he would play his guitar and sing with his back turned to the audience–fearful to face them. As this musician faded into obscurity, rumors surfaced of his suicide on stage: was it a gun to the head during a performance, or had he doused himself in gasoline and set himself on fire?
The filmmakers here chase after the mythology of Rodriguez in this compelling documentary. It seems that while his music was unheard of (literally) in the U.S., his ballads of the working class man had reached South Africa by way of bootleg copies and swapped cassettes. During the anti-Apartheid movement, his voice created a soundtrack of sorts to an oppressed people. It seems that music from the down trodden streets of Detroit resonated in the lives of the people of South Africa. Two fans of his music from that country, Stephen “Sugar” Segerman and Craig Strydom begin a campaign to find out more information about the singer that had become “bigger than Elvis” in their home country. Selling over half a million copies in that country alone, Rodriguez was an icon–yet shrouded in mystery and unknown to the fans that adored him.