Rodriguez has three albums in the Australian chart this week. The Rodriguez catalogue took an active run on the ARIA chart after his 2014 tour was announced last week.
Rodriguez was last in Australia only last year for Bluesfest and played a national tour with backing band The Break, featuring members of Midnight Oil and Violent Femmes.
The first Rodriguez album ‘Cold Fact’ (1970) is at 11, the ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ soundtrack is at 22 and his second and final album ‘Coming From Reality’ (1971) is at 25.
The Detroit singer songwriter Rodriguez has only ever recorded the two albums from the early ‘70s. Consider that at that time in Australia it was pre-FM radio, pre-Internet, pre-Cable and Digital TV. Australia was completely cut off culturally from the rest of the world at that time.
In May Swedish film-maker Malik Bendjelloul – who had won an Oscar for his debut, the stunning Searching for Sugar Man – shocked everyone by taking his own life. Talking to the people closest to him, Andrew Anthony tries to make sense of a tragedy.
Documentary feature film-making, if done well, is a long, arduous and very often thankless task. There is no script to speak of, no blueprint or guidelines. All there is to work on is the shapeless chaos of the world, or a particular part of the world, out of which the film-maker hopes to fashion a coherent structure, arresting images, compelling characters and a story that excites and touches people. In terms of reaching a large and appreciative audience, it’s almost always a study in failure.
There are, though, a select group of exceptions, narrative documentaries that enjoy critical recognition and the special approval of a cinematic release. One such film was Searching for Sugar Man, a story about Sixto Rodriguez, a forgotten Detroit singer-songwriter from the early 1970s who, unbeknown to him, was a huge star in South Africa during the apartheid era. It was the debut of a young and immensely talented Swedish film-maker named Malik Bendjelloul, who had come across Rodriguez’s story while travelling in Africa, looking for stories to turn into short TV pieces.
So struck was he by the tale of this lost musician that he went off on his own and gathered the material, directed, filmed some sections himself, wrote incidental music, added his own illustrations, made the title sequence and finally edited it for 1,000 days. During filming Bendjelloul ran out of money and, as he could no longer afford Super 8 film, he shot some of the remaining footage on a smartphone using the iPhone app8mm Vintage Camera.
Read more at Searching for Malik Bendjelloul – a tragedy
After the death of Malik Bendjelloul, who threw himself in front of a subway train, a THR writer heads to Sweden to talk to his friends, who reveal the perfectionist’s quirks — from eating the same breakfast for six months to walking one lap around his apartment before and after work — and open up about his fear, doubt and their own surprise: “He was the least likely to take his life.”
This story first appeared in the June 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
In the late afternoon on May 13, a young man with a mop of soft brown hair and a delicate frame stood on the platform of the Solna Centrum metro stop in Stockholm, Sweden, waiting for the Blue Line. It was rush hour, and the station, one of the deepest in Stockholm’s rail system, was filling up with commuters leaving the city. At the bottom of a long escalator, cavelike tunnel walls had been painted with elaborate pastoral scenes from the 1970s: lush green hillsides studded with fir trees and a giant yellow moon rising against a vast, dark red sky. Vignettes of Swedish life were overlaid against this Nordic backdrop — chain-saw-wielding loggers presiding over a recent clear-cut, a twin-engine prop plane taking flight, and a solitary violinist standing in a field pondering the city’s encroachment. At one end of the platform was a sign. “Stop!” it warned. “Unauthorized people prohibited on the tracks.”
Searching for Sugar Man is a brilliant testament to the briefly glittering talents of its director and star
In 2006, an aspiring young documentary maker called Malik Bendjelloul left his job at Swedish state TV and went to Africa in search of material for his first feature. He eventually found himself in Cape Town, where a record store owner told him the story of Sixto Rodriguez, a brilliant Mexican-American singer-songwriter whose two albums, released in the early 1970s, had unexpectedly bombed in the US — but, by some magic, later found an audience in apartheid South Africa, where they sold hundreds of thousands of copies. As a consequence, Rodriguez became more popular than Elvis in the country, and inspired a generation of anti-establishment songwriters.
For years, the store owner explained, listeners in South Africa had presumed that Rodriguez was dead: apartheid censorship laws meant that information about him was scant, and rumours circulated that he’d committed suicide on stage somewhere in America. But then, in the late 1990s, a resourceful South African music journalist called Craig Bartholomew-Strydom started digging — and made an astonishing discovery.
It was hardly surprising that Bendjelloul grabbed this story with both hands and set to work turning it into a documentary, Searching for Sugar Man, named after his most famous song and released in 2012. What was surprising, at least to those who didn’t know him, was that this offbeat debut feature – written, directed, edited and co-produced by Bendjelloul – turned out to be a film of such elegance, poignancy and directorial sure-footedness. It was a hit with audiences and won dozens of awards, including the Oscar for Best Documentary in 2013, and seemed to promise Bendjelloul the kind of long, glittering career that had been denied to his subject.
Sadly, this was not to be the case: earlier this month, Bendjelloul committed suicide back at home in Sweden. He was thirty-six, and working on a project based on the conservationist Lawrence Anthony’s book The Elephant Whisperer.
The former chairman of Motown Records sues Sixto Rodriguez for representations made 45 years ago. Searching for Sugar Man star Sixto Rodriguez spent years out of the limelight until an Oscar-winning documentary showcased how the Michigan-born songwriter had secretly become a huge star in South Africa. Stardom has its price, though. Now, the newly famous musician is facing trouble over representations he made to music executives in the 1960s.The genesis of the legal dispute was first detailed by The Hollywood Reporter earlier this month. At the time, Rodriguez was not a party to the proceedings, but that is no longer the case. He’s now facing claims of breaching his songwriter deal.
From Daily Maverick
Malik Bendjelloul, the Swedish director of ‘Searching for Sugar Man’, has committed suicide aged 36. It’s just over a year since the documentary about folk musician Rodriguez won Bendjelloul an Oscar and captured the hearts of viewers all over the world. REBECCA DAVIS spoke to Bendjelloul’s subject and friend, Cape Town record-store owner Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman.
The last time I interviewed Stephen Segerman in his den in Oranjezicht, it was July 2012, just prior to the official release of Searching for Sugar Manin South Africa. At that time Segerman gave the impression of a man both bemused and exhilarated by the success of the film, in which he features prominently as one of two South Africans who made it their mission to track down Rodriguez.
Shortly before the interview, he’d been to the Sundance Film Festival with Bendjelloul and Rodriguez, where the film received a standing ovation. “It was just a magical night,” he told me at the time.
Watch: Searching for Sugar Man trailer
Almost two years later, the fairytale seemed even rosier. Searching for Sugar Man won the Best Documentary Oscar at the 2013 Academy Awards. Rodriguez, who languished in obscurity for years, today has fame and fortune locked down. It was the ultimate feel-good story.
And then, on Tuesday, shocking news broke: Bendjelloul, aged just 36, was dead.
“You know, with some people you have inklings and maybes. With Malik? Suicide? Impossible,” says Segerman, shaking his head. “I thought he must have died in his sleep or something. When I heard, well…” he trails off. “I’ve been seeing the comments. This dude had the world at his feet, he had an Oscar…”
Malik Bendjelloul was a teen actor in his native Sweden, starring in a show which Segerman describes as the Swedish version of America’s Family Ties. As an adult he worked as a TV reporter for Sweden’s public broadcaster, specialising in making short films about visiting rockstars. Then he left to travel the world, looking for richer stories.
Segerman first heard from Bendjelloul in late 2006, when he emailed the record-store owner to say that he was coming to Cape Town, and asked if they could meet. He had learnt about Segerman’s involvement in the Rodriguez tale through a piece in the Guardian, and wanted to hear more.
“At that stage we had a shop on the corner of Long Street with lekker big glass windows,” remembers Segerman. “I can still see him coming around the corner and saying: ‘Hello, I’m Malik!’”
In an interview with Movie Scope Magazine in July 2012, Bendjelloul described the encounter:
“I met Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman, the guy who first started to look for Rodriguez in Cape Town, and when he told me the story I was just blown away. It was just so beautiful and touching. Just the one-sentence summary was pretty strong: ‘A man who doesn’t know that he is a superstar.’”
For his part, Segerman instantly warmed to the lanky Swede.
“He just had such a lovely energy: tall, bright-eyed…He reminded me of Tintin,” he says.
Segerman took him up Table Mountain and Bendjelloul filmed a short sequence of Segerman telling the story of the hunt for Rodriguez. Then he disappeared off to Sweden, and Segerman didn’t hear from him for six months. At that point, Bendjelloul emailed to say: that’s the story we like in Sweden.
Bendjelloul returned to Cape Town and shot a one-minute trailer in Segerman’s den. He took it to the Sheffield Documentary Festival, where aspirant filmmakers pitch their stories. Bendjelloul won. A full-length documentary was on the cards.
Segerman points to a photograph pinned to a cabinet. It shows Segerman, Bendjelloul and camera woman Camilla Skagerström. “That was the team,” he says. “Just them. They came here and shot, then went to Detroit. There was barely any budget. Just – excuse the cliché – passion.”
Photo: Stephen Segerman, cinematographer Camilla Skagerström, and filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul, pictured in Segerman’s den in Cape Town.
In Detroit, there was the tricky business of persuading the reclusive Rodriguez to feature in the film at all. Bendjelloul worked his way in by meeting the musician’s family members one by one. He got his way eventually through sheer charm, Segerman says. Even so, filming Rodriguez had certain unique challenges. There’s a scene in the film where Rodriguez is fiddling with a video microphone while he talks. It still had to be used: there was no question of a do-over.
“There was always only gonna be one take,” Segerman chuckles. “No way was Rodriguez going to say all those things all over again.”
For over a year, Bendjelloul sat in his flat in Stockholm making the film. People promised funding and backed out. He ran out of money for animation, so he had to do the animation work himself. It’s the stuff of legends now that some scenes in the documentary had to be filmed using a $1 Super-8 iPhone app.
“That movie is sort of a bit jerry-built – kind of smashed together,” says Segerman. “I saw it for the first time and thought: That doesn’t look anything like movies I’ve checked, slick, beautifully-made documentaries!”
But the film’s sheer heart – and the incredible story it told – more than compensated for its technical weaknesses. Some suggested that the story was a little too incredible – that Bendjelloul had conveniently omitted aspects of the Rodriguez narrative that didn’t easily fit within the rags-to-riches trajectory.
“There were two main snipes about the film,” Segerman says today. “The first was that Rodriguez wasn’t actually an anti-Apartheid hero – which I never said. The other criticism is about Australia.” Bendjelloul’s documentary left out the fact that Rodriguez was aware that he had a major fan-base in Australia, and had toured there twice in the late 70s and early 80s.
“The simple explanation, which we spoke about, is that [Searching for Sugar Man] is about the search of two South Africans for Rodriguez,” Segerman says. “I found out about the Australian tour the night that I met Rodriguez for the first time, in March 1998. If I’d known, I would have tracked him through Australia! It was not part of our story.”
Segerman says Bendjelloul was unruffled by this criticism. “It made zero difference,” he says. “For him to create something which brought so much happiness into the world…Nothing could have bothered him about that.”
Segerman and Craig Bartholomew, the music journalist who also features in the documentary as instrumental in the hunt for Rodriguez, attended the Oscars with Bendjelloul last year.
From his wallet, Segerman extracts a piece of card on which he’d jotted down ideas for an acceptance speech for Bendjelloul, since the filmmaker hadn’t prepared anything.
“I’m superstitious about preparing speeches – this has been lucky for me,” it begins.
In the end, the laconic Swede didn’t need the prompt. “Oh boy!” Bendjelloul said when he won. “Thanks to one of the greatest singers ever, Rodriguez!”
There’s a photo in Segerman’s den of the three men tux-ed up, Bendjelloul clutching his statuette, at the prestigious Vanity Fair after-party.
“Just on my left side, over there,” says Segerman, pointing at the photo, “there was this old American dude. I thought: who’s that? He obviously wasn’t an actor.” He pauses. “It was Buzz Aldrin. For a baby-boomer like me, you don’t get any better than that. I met Buzz Aldrin, and then I went home.”
Interviewed by the New York Times in May last year as part of a list of ’20 Filmmakers To Watch’, Bendjelloul hinted at the surreal aspects of having made such a successful first film.
“Since everything was the first time for me, it was a bit confusing to understand what last year was all about,” Bendjelloul admitted. “To travel around with your film is a weird experience. Filmmakers are not musicians, they can’t perform their film; you don’t even need to load the projector. It was weird to think that that year was the reward for the work. But now I realise that it’s this year that is the reward. To feel free to do exactly what you want to do without feeling too scared that your ideas won’t interest anyone or worry about the rent or having to deal with people who think they know better.”
After the Oscars, Segerman says Bendjelloul was besieged with offers.
“Malik had been turning down a huge amount of stuff. He had a lot of offers of TV commercials, that kind of thing, but he wasn’t the type of guy to sell out. Your first full-length movie wins an Oscar! What the hell do you do for a second?”
In fact, for his next major project, Segerman said Bendjelloul had turned again to a South African story. He was working on a screenplay for a feature film inspired by the experiences of conservationist Lawrence Anthony, dubbed ‘the elephant whisperer’ for his work with traumatised elephants.
“He loved South Africa,” Segerman says. “I always say he should have been an honorary Capetonian. You have no idea how many people found out about Cape Town from his movie. He made it look so beautiful.”
Bendjelloul didn’t let his newfound fame go to his head, according to Segerman. “He always looked a little bit shy, a little bit awkward. It’s not an easy thing to deal with.”
Segerman was last in touch with the filmmaker last Monday, when the two had an email exchange about a legal dispute unfolding between two of Rodriguez’s old record labels. He says Bendjelloul gave no sign at all that anything was emotionally amiss.
“You know, through the film… My little record shop became a great little record shop. Rodriguez found his destiny. Malik, I thought, had found his,” Segerman says.
“You put something like that out there. The joy that I’ve got out of it – how much more so for Malik? And it wasn’t enough.” DM
As Cannes mourned the death of Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul, the Swedish Film Institute and Protagonist Pictures set up a special screening of his Oscar-winning documentary “Searching for Sugar Man.”
The non-official memorial “Sugar Man” screening will be held on Sunday May 19 at 9.30 at the Cinema Star 1, 98, Rue d’Antibes in Cannes.
Bendjelloul, who was 36, was found dead in Stockholm on Wednesday, shocking his many fans, in what is reportedly a suicide.
“Searching for Sugar Man,” about the amazing non-career of American singer Sixto Rodriguez, won the best documentary Oscar in 2013.
The Oscar-winning movie director Malik Bendjelloul has died at the age of 36, reports The Associated Press. The Swedish director won the 2013 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for his documentary Searching for Sugar Man. Prior to his death, Malik was working on a new project, a documentary about Lawrence Anthony, the man who believed he could talk to elephants.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. It’s Unknown How Bendjelloul Died
The circumstances of Bendjelloul’s death are unknown. His passing was confirmed by Malik’s brother, Johan, who was speaking to Omni. He said simply, “My brother is dead. The family wants to be left alone in their grief.”
His friend, journalist Hynek Pallas, who accompanied Bendjelloul to the Oscars, called his friend“modest” and “a skilled storyteller.”
Police do not suspect any criminality in the death, according to the Swedish tabloid Expressen.
2. He Was Found Dead in Sweden
Bendjelloul was a native of Sweden and died in Stockholm on May 13. His body was found by police in the Swedish capital. Malik was born in the town of Ystad in 1977 in the southern part of the country.
3. His Documentary Won a String of Awards
In addition to his Oscar, Searching for Sugar Man won a BAFTA, a Director’s Guild award, a Producer’s Guild award, a Writer’s Guild award and the 2012 International Documentary Association award. The story of the movie dealt with two South African’s searching for their musical hero, Sixto Rodriguez.
Amazingly, Bendjelloul ran out of money toward the end of filming and was forced to finish recording the movie on an app from his iPhone. His victory at the 2013 Oscars was the first time in 61 years that a Swedish movie won a documentary Academy Award.
Malik Bendjelloul, the award-winning documentary filmmaker, died at the age of 36. Here are the best photos to remember the ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ director.Click here to read more
4. He Was the Son of a Doctor & an Artist
Bendjelloul’s father was an Algerian-born doctor and his mother was a painter, Veronica Schildt.He studied journalism in college, where he got his start in documentary film-making in Swedish television. His early documentaries were about music stars like Elton John, Kraftwerk and Bjork.
5. He Was a Child Actor
Before going into directing, Bendjelloul was a child actor. He was most famous in his homeland for his role in the TV show Ebba and Didrik, in which he played the role of Phillip.
Director Malik Bendjelloul, whose 2012 documentary “Searching for Sugar Man” won the best documentary Oscar, has been found dead.
He was 36.
Police spokeswoman Pia Glenvik told the Associated Press that Bendjelloul died in Stockholm late Tuesday, but wouldn’t specify the cause of death.
“Searching for Sugar Man,” about the life and career of American singer Sixto Rodriguez, won 2013 docu Oscar as well as awards from Bafta, the IDA, the PGA and the DGA.
Born in Sweden, Bendjelloul appeared on TV as a child and then studied journalism and media production. He produced music documentaries for Swedish television and worked as a TV reporter before leaving to travel in Africa and South America.
He filmed the story partly on an iPhone, and the film was accepted as opening night film at Sundance before it was even finished.
“I was backpacking around Africa and South America looking for stories with a camera. I found six stories and this was one of the six. I thought it was the best story I’d ever heard,” he told the Independent newspaper in 2012.
In 1970, Sixto Rodriguez was allegedly urged by the future chairman of Motown Records to write under “Jesus Rodriguez” to avoid prior contractual obligations.
Those who have seen Searching for Sugar Man might think they know the astonishing tale of Sixto Rodriguez, but there’s an important aspect of the musician’s story that is now coming to light thanks to a lawsuit that was filed on Friday.
As the Oscar-winning documentary detailed, Rodriguez recorded a couple of albums in the 1970s that seemingly were commercial bombs. Unbeknownst to the Michigan-born songwriter was that his songs had made him a star on the scale of Elvis Presley in South Africa. Fans there embraced his songs as anti-apartheid anthems, and only decades later, after Rodriguez slipped into obscurity and had been rumored to have committed suicide, did he triumphantly make it to South Africa to discover his tremendous success.
From Detroit Free Press
Two years after an Oscar-winning film raised questions about royalties for Sixto Rodriguez, a copyright and fraud lawsuit has been filed against Clarence Avant, who signed the Detroit singer to a record deal more than four decades ago.
Rodriguez is not a direct party in the complaint, filed today in Detroit federal court by Gomba Music, which is owned by longtime Michigan music executive Harry Balk. But the musician does stand to benefit if Gomba is successful.
Speaking with the Free Press this evening, Avant denied wrongdoing.
“I think I’ve been pretty fair to Rodriguez all along,” said Avant, 83. “I wish him nothing but the best, because I think he deserves it. I admire the nerve.”
Gomba said it had an exclusive songwriting deal with Rodriguez that was willfully ignored by Avant, whose Los Angeles-based Venture Records released the musician’s “Cold Fact” album in 1970. Gomba holds songwriting copyrights for those Rodriguez songs, the complaint said.
The lawsuit contends that Avant instead devised a “fraudulent scheme” to credit the album’s compositions to others — including the musician’s brother — rather than to Rodriguez himself.
The result, said the complaint, is that Gomba — and by extension Rodriguez — failed to benefit from the album’s eventual success in apartheid-era South Africa, where it may have sold 500,000 copies.
The suit seeks unspecified statutory and punitive damages.
The court filing comes one year after the Free Press reported that a legal team had started a royalties inquiry on the singer’s behalf.
“While settlement discussions were begun, they dragged on unreasonably,” the complaint reads.
Reached in Los Angeles, Avant said he was en route to speak with his attorneys. He said he had not read the complaint and was surprised to hear that it cites previous settlement discussions.
“Let the lawyers work it out now,” he said. “If (the lawsuit) says they were in conversations … I will certainly want to settle it, get it over with. I don’t want to be bothered with all this (BS). I really don’t. I’ll tell them today let’s talk to their lawyer and get it over with.”
Asked about the songwriting credits on “Cold Fact” — including the name “Jesus Rodriguez” — Avant said, “I only did what they sent me, and we put it out that way.”
Avant continued: “He named himself that, I guess. I really don’t know. Why would I name somebody? (Rodriguez) was the one signed to Harry Balk, trying to get out of the deal. You wait 40-something years to bring it up? Kind of strange.”
The lawsuit is a dramatic twist in the ongoing saga of Rodriguez, who came to wide attention via the 2012 documentary “Searching for Sugar Man.” The film chronicled the blue-collar singer’s belated discovery of his South African fame and offered a cynical portrayal of Avant while raising questions about unpaid royalties.
Questioned in the film about any money due to Rodriguez, Avant appeared dismissive, telling an interviewer: “You think somebody’s going to worry about a 1970 contract?”
The lawsuit contends that Avant continues to infringe copyright by licensing “Cold Fact” for sale. Propelled by the success of “Sugar Man,” the album has sold more than 198,000 copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Avant said tonight that he is frustrated at being cast as a villain to Rodriguez, whom he describes as a talented musician who “should have been huge.”
“I think I’ve really been painted as the bad guy,” he said. “It really bugs me. I think I’ve been the good guy. … It really bugs me that I have to go through this, when I’m the one guy who believed in him.”
Gomba’s Balk, who worked with Motown Records in the 1960s and managed an array of Detroit acts, “did not become aware of the fraud perpetrated on him and his company” until the film’s release, the lawsuit says.
Rodriguez is scheduled to play May 13 at the Masonic Temple Theatre, one year to the week after his sold-out homecoming show at the Midtown venue.
Contact Brian McCollum: 313-223-4450 firstname.lastname@example.org
ACADEMY AWARD-WINNING PRODUCER SIMON CHINN SPEAKS AT NFTS FILM CLINIC
Simon Chinn, the double Academy Award winning producer of Searching For Sugar Man and Man on Wire has told up coming documentary-makers to look to the ‘small screen’ when making films in future.
Speaking in conversation with Dick Fontaine, NFTS Head of Documentaries at an NFTS Film Clinic event, hosted at Google UK HQ in London, Simon Chinn, said although documentary films could still be theatrically released, the landscape of distribution was changing. Chinn recently launched a new company, Lightbox, to create high quality non-fiction content for the international television and digital marketplaces.
He added: “There is a hunger for documentary content for the small screen, especially from American online companies such as Netflix, Amazon and Xbox. New opportunities are emerging online for a diversity of documentary makers and new audiences are opening up. The public wants more documentary content, partly driven by reality TV. But the bar has risen; documentary makers have to tell stories in an even more entertaining and emotionally engaging way than fiction.”