One of Q’s films of 2012, Searching For Sugar Man recounted the heart-warming tale of singer-songwriter Rodriguez. A commercial flop when he released his music in the early 1970s, he became one of the biggest artists in South Africa… without him – or the outside world – knowing. With the documentary just released on DVD, director Malik Bandjellou explains how he became interested in Rodriguez’s story and why the internet age means it was probably rock and roll’s last great untold tale.
I was travelling around Africa with a camera looking for stories for Swedish television. I quit my job and just went on this trip. In Cape Town I met Sugar [fan and record shop owner Steve “Sugar” Segerman] and he told me the Rodriguez story, it was one of six I got from the trip. I went home and the story just stuck in my brain, the others didn’t, so I started to feel it could be something longer.
The whole thing was the South African experience made it unique. It was two stories: one was how South Africa was cut off from the word and this could happen; and the other was this beautiful resurrection. How they’re connected with each other for me was the story because it’s unlikely this kind of story could happen now. There was no internet, no medium to connect these two elements up. For that reason a story like this will probably never happen again.