The Swedish documentary "Searching for Sugar Man" received the highest honor after a deluge of what the Swedes call "prize rain" at the Academy Awards where it took home best documentary. The film is now in it's 27th week at the Swedish box office since it's debut in August 2012.
Filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul's vision was to enbark on a musicologist journey to find the Detroit based musician Sixto Rodriguez. In South Africa there was some real interest to find Rodriguez who cut two vinyl albums in the early 70’s in the US, both of which were flops. Bootleg copies of the LPs made their way to South Africa and were enthusiastically received by white Afrikaans. The LPs were partially censored for alluding to drugs and these restrictions make the music more popular. Afrikaans at the time who worshipped Rodriguez were extremely controlled and TV was considered communist. Someone like Rodriguez, free spirit as he was, was certainly appealing and represented hope.
Rodriguez' beautiful voice and poetic lyrics are played throughout the documentary. The assemblage of material consists of found footage of Detroit and of concerts Rodriquez did in South Africa in the late 1990's. A rumor spread that Rodriquez committed suicide on stage in South Africa but in 1998 he did a series of concerts accompanied by his daughters who are interviewed in the film.
Rodriguez never made any money off his records, which were taken by the music distributors but after all the Oscar buzz he is considering asking for royalties now. As a result of Bendjelloul's success a concert is planned in Stockholm in August featuring Rodriquez. The event is called the Stockholm Music and Arts Festival and will be held on Skeppsholmen from August 2-4. Also appearing will be "Prince" and "First Aid Kit". The tickets will be released on March 25.
Perhaps Rodriguez was not properly received in the USA but this is not new to artists and especially Swedish artists. Two Swedish music groups also went the same route and were more popular aboard then in Sweden – "Abba" who was the rage in Australia and "Roxette" whose music was played by a US radio station which made them famous in the US. Two other Swedish music groups who have recently enjoyed huge success in the US are The Cardigans and The Knife.
Rodriquez' daughters explain in the documentary more about the man behind the music than the musician himself. They reveal that their father is contemplative and introspective and that is certainly born out those times he is on film. He works as a construction worker and builds and repairs houses. He is proud of his work and his life and any money he makes he gives away to his friends and family.
Upon receiving the Oscar February 24 Bendjelloul was clearly overwhelmed and overjoyed. The film was made with next to little money and is distributed by Nonstop Entertainment in Sweden.