Searching for Sugar Man

Searching for Sugar Man is a 2012 Swedish–British documentary directed and written by Malik Bendjelloul that details the efforts of two Cape Town fans in the late 1990s, Stephen “Sugar” Segerman and Craig Bartholomew-Strydom, to find out whether the rumored 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. The life of the man they find has nothing to do with any of their wildest dreams.

Little did I know until doing research for this text that the artist who created this superbly shot film has his own tale to tell. Initially using Super 8 film to record stylized shots for the film, director Malik Bendjelloul ran out of money for more film to record the final few shots. After three years of cutting-room work, the main financial backers of the film threatened to withdraw funding to finish it. He resorted to filming the remaining stylized shots on his smartphone using an iPhone app called 8mm Vintage Camera. On February 10, 2013, the film won the BAFTA Award for Best Documentary at the 66th British Academy Film Awards in London, and two weeks later it won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 85th Academy Awards in Hollywood. Bendjelloul committed suicide a year later.

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