User Score
8.6

Universal acclaim- based on 52 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 50 out of 52
  2. Negative: 1 out of 52

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  1. Jul 29, 2012
    9
    Do not read another word about this film; just go and see it now. You will not be disappointed. What an incredible and moving story. I loved every second.
  2. Sep 1, 2012
    10
    Love this documentary! I'd never heard of Rodriguez and was completely engrossed. A really fascinating story from beginning to end. Do not miss this one.
  3. Lyn
    May 26, 2013
    9
    Uniquely enjoyable in the way it stirs incredulity, outrage, discovery and admiration. Rodriguez's message is so heartfelt and his voice so haunting I would say it's sort of a blend of Dylan and James Taylor that you can't believe you never heard of him before this movie came out. (Even if, like me, you've spent a lot of time in & around Detroit, where's he's from.) Very grateful to have experienced this movie. Expand
  4. Jul 5, 2013
    10
    Who knew? I considered myself a "mavin" of folk/rock of the 60's and 70's but yet I had never heard of this artist known as Rodriguez. This documentary tells the story of a singer/songwriter who never had a chance to succeed in the U.S. but became a voice of the opposition in apartheid South Africa. An absolute brilliant film that brings his story to the world. At times a very sad story but at other times a film that can lift up the spirit of everyone who sees this movie. The music alone is well worth the price of admission. I look forward to watching "Searching for Sugar Man" many more times. Expand
  5. Mar 20, 2013
    10
    Probably the best documentary I have ever seen. 'Nuff said. Since a review needs to be a ridiculous 150 characters long, here's the rest.....best documentary I have ever seen, best documentary I have ever seen, best documentary I have ever seen, best documentary I have ever seen, best documentary I have ever seen.
  6. Jul 29, 2012
    7
    A KVIFF viewing of this demystifying documentary of a miracle would never find a copycat in the digital-era, Rodriguez
  7. Jan 3, 2013
    10
    Absolutely love this man and his music after watching this documentary. It helps you realize how isolated cultures were, especially in the apartheid boycott era. Rodriguez seems to be the anthem of South African apartheid struggle. I can't imagine many people disliking this.
  8. Dec 31, 2012
    10
    A fascinating story of an individual's life, his hardships, the suffering and how he transformed all of that into the music. Honestly, I'd never heard of Rodriguez before and it is shameful that we remained unknown to a fantastic musician and a wonderful human being. Don't read about this documentary to decide whether you wanna watch it or not, whether you'd like it or not, just watch it. This is so inspirational (it actually inspired a lot of people in South Africa to stand for what's right, to make a stand against corrupted government). It moves you emotionally. Teaches you a whole lot of lessons such as about the insights of the music industry, hard work, living your life in a simple way regardless of how famous you actually are, and the fact that there is always somebody in the world who is appreciating your talent regardless of distance, color, race and generation which is quite astonishing. Searching for Sugar Man is easily one of the most wonderful documentaries of 2012. Expand
  9. Jan 28, 2013
    10
    How did the rest of the world miss this man! I am not much on documentaries but was drawn in by the music. Definitely glad I saw this and am now a true fan!
  10. Oct 27, 2012
    10
    This is a terrific documentary about a remarkably talented man and the vagaries of the music business. Indeed, the vagaries of life. See it. There are shades of "It's a Wonderful Life" here--the people unwittingly touched and the events unknowingly changed by a single life, even though half way round the world. But, at the center, Rodriquez appears rock steady, grounded, modest, and philosophical. Expand
  11. Apr 23, 2013
    8
    Director Malik Bendjelloul's engaging, cleverly structured documentary about the legendary folk singer Rodriguez is shaped like a mystery. The documentary tells the journey of two South Africans, who are dedicated to follow the footsteps of the late 70's singer, Sixto Rodriguez. A singer and composer of great talent who was virtually unknown in the United States. Hailed as the next Bob Dylan, former Motown chief Clarence Avant signed him in the late 1960s, and the Detroit based musician (full name Sixto Rodriguez) had two albums released, in 1971 and 1972. Rave reviews failed to translate into sales. However, his records sold millions as protest songs for the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Rodriguez knew nothing about movement, including the amount of money he should have garnered from royalties there, is unheard of, and unfair-- but it's actually the smaller part of the story. The mass legend surrounding his on-stage suicide (did he light himself on fire on stage? or something even worse?) never corroborated and the investigation into how and why the musician from Detroit disappeared takes on an intensity of its own. If you like music, a good mystery or, better yet, a combination of both, you won't be disappointed. Expand
  12. Feb 6, 2013
    10
    Beautiful film about a real original. I am 47, and I have loved Rodriguez's music since my big brother brought Cold Fact home when I was 10. Like the men who made this film, I always wondered what became of him, every time I hummed the bassline to "I Wonder". I am so grateful to them for uncovering what happened to Sixto Rodriguez there is no other story like it. If like me, you have grown up knowing this man's music, GO AND SEE THIS FILM RIGHT NOW. If not, I think anyone at all would be enormously moved by his story, it's beautiful Expand
  13. Jan 25, 2013
    9
    "The saddest thing in life is wasted talent," Lorenzo told his idealistic son Calogero in Robert De Niro's A Bronx Tale, and that moral could be tweaked to read "the saddest thing in life is an unrecognized talent" for Malik Bendjelloul's Searching for Sugar Man, an astonishing documentary achievement that provides viewers with an uplifting, stranger-than-life story about a folk singer named Sixto Rodriguez. Rodriguez released two vinyls in the seventies, one called Cold Fact and a follow up record called Coming from Reality. Both albums were met with critical acclaim for being lyrically challenging and sung to perfection, yet in North America, they went highly unnoticed, leading Rodriguez to fade into absolute obscurity after being dropped by his record label.

    Then something strange happened. By some miraculous state of affairs, his album wound up in none other than South Africa, where it was frequently bootlegged and sold on the black market. People were playing the music, children dancing to it in the streets, and the quiet, sheltered culture of South Africa, which was kept a pariah in terms of outside media and news, was embracing the rebellious nature of Rodriguez's lyrics about anti-establishment and drug use.

    How the album even got to South Africa is nothing but a mystery. Rumor has it that a young woman visiting her boyfriend bought the vinyl over and played it to him and his friends, who burned copies of it for their own friends who did the same, and so on. It then became a phenomenon that spread through the age-old ways of a word-of-mouth campaign, and soon enough, Rodriguez became South Africa's Elvis Presley. Maybe bigger, we're even told.

    But where was Rodriguez when this was happening. One must remember that this is not only the 1970's, but this is the 1970's with no internet, and in a country that has been sheltered off from the world politically and socially, so very little information was coming in and going out. All many people had was a bootlegged vinyl, which bared the credits of those involved, and the lyrics of the songs, which were highly ambiguous. Rodriguez's most popular songs, "Sugar Man," "I Wonder," and "Crucify Your Mind," were easily accessible, easy and thought-provoking to listen to, yet difficult to define.

    Had it not been for the efforts of Stephen "Sugar" Segerman and Craig Bartholomew Strydom, two South African men who reside in Cape Town, that question would still be asked today. Thanks to their bravery and persistency in trying to track down the quietly famous singer, it turns out that Rodriguez was, and still is, living a very modest lifestyle in the Detroit, Michigan area, acting as a drifter-character, often playing nightclubs and seedy bars for little to no money. He is, too, unaware of all the fame and success he has achieved in South Africa, and we can almost hear the hint of shock and subtle pride in his voice as he speaks about it. When Sugar and Craig finally get in contact with Rodriguez and schedule an interview, we see how soft-spoken, elegant, and gentle he really is, as he talks about how after the failure of both his albums, he gave up a singing career and pursued the life of a hardworking laborer, scheduling many demolition, renovation, and restoration projects to keep the few amount of lights on and extra money in his pocket.

    Frequently throughout Searching for Sugar Man, we hear almost every, if not all, of the tracks off his debut album Cold Fact, and see how beautifully they fit the landscape of either Detroit or the South African area. Yet these frequent song pieces and shots of surrounding atmosphere never come off as one thing and that is scenic. The film is always alert, alive, and completely in-tune with its premise and overall goal, and at eighty-five minutes, it zips along at a pace that feels just right.

    When Rodriguez finally plays a concert in South Africa in 1998, with an upwards of 20,000 people in the audience screaming, cheering, and even crying, we get a glimpse at a different kind of American Dream. Yet it's sad when we're reminded by one of the interviewees that most of us die before achieving Rodriguez's success. Many of us go truly unsung in our talents and are never appreciated or even recognized for them, which is an unbelievably depressing fact. Even today, Rodriguez possesses the fame, but not the glamor that should come with it. It must be remembered that most of Rodriguez's music was pirated or illegally purchased, and wasn't picked up by a record company and officially distributed until recently. It's no doubt that Rodriguez made some money off of his two albums, and his concerts, but not as much as he should have. Yet when we're told at the end that he gave much of his money away to his friends and family, we feel he couldn't care less. He just wanted to be recognized and he was lucky enough to get it.
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  14. Jan 28, 2013
    10
    This movie is by far the best music documentary I have ever seen. I am 54 years old and I have seen alot of them. Besides being wildly informative about a bit of rock info most of us are not aware of-and who does not love that?-it is such an emotional ride. I had to see it twice, and I think number 3 is on the horizon...
  15. Mar 2, 2013
    9
    Great film! It was fascinating to watch the story unfold on two continents. How did such a talented musician never make it in America? We can only hope for a sequel to solve the mystery of the money...
  16. Sep 27, 2013
    8
    A documentary that looks like something out of fiction, in which a sincere musician finds, after many years, his place in the world. A beautiful history.
Metascore
79

Generally favorable reviews - based on 32 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 28 out of 32
  2. Negative: 0 out of 32
  1. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Oct 19, 2012
    100
    All music docs are not created equal. Yes, some are formulaic. But some are beautiful, some are singular, some are marvels of storytelling. And some, like Searching for Sugar Man, are all three.
  2. Reviewed by: Lawrence Toppman
    Sep 20, 2012
    88
    Rodriguez' inner peace wins us over. He seems to have enjoyed recording music, fathering kids, cleaning houses, playing sold-out gigs and simply strumming a guitar in his kitchen. Searching for Sugar Man reminds us that a wise man knows lasting riches are never the result of record sales.
  3. Reviewed by: Joe Williams
    Sep 14, 2012
    100
    It starts as a bittersweet parable about the cruelty of commerce, but the wonder of Searching for Sugar Man will not soon slip away.