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DVD Review: Searching for Sugar Man

January 22, 2013

Searching for Sugar Man DVD CoverSearching for Sugar Man – A Sony Pictures Classic’ Release

DVD Release Date: January 22nd, 2013

Rated PG for language

Running time: 87 minutes

Malik Bendjelloul (dir.)

Malik Bendjelloul (writer)

Rodriguez (music)

Stephen “Sugar” Segerman as Himself

Craig Bartholomew-Strydrom as Himself

Sixto Rodriguez as Himself

Our reviews below:


Searching for Sugar Man DVD Review By John C.

**** (out of 4)

When Rodriguez was discovered in a Detroit bar in 1969, two producers predicted that he would go big and signed him a record deal.  When the album flopped, he disappeared and stories of his legendary suicide started appearing.  But what nobody knew was that a pirated copy of the record made its way to South Africa, becoming a pop culture phenomenon that helped to inspire the uprising against apartheid.  Directed by Malik Bendjelloul, the Oscar-nominated Searching for Sugar Man follows two South African fans, including record shop owner Stephen “Sugar” Segerman and journalist Craig Bartholomew-Strydom, who set out to find the story behind their enigmatic hero.

Filmed and edited like a mystery, Searching for Sugar Man offers an intriguing look at the fascinating Rodriguez and the brilliant songs that we hear throughout the film make us wish that his albums were more widely available.  Throughout Searching for Sugar Man is the message that even if we think what we are doing is falling on deaf ears, it could be inspiring something very real in other people, a deeply inspirational message that continues to resonate in a big way.  This is a phenomenal documentary that ranks among the best of 2012.

The DVD includes audio commentary and two featurettes.


Searching for Sugar Man DVD Review By Erin V.  

***1/2 (out of 4)

Nominated for an Academy Award, Searching For Sugar Man is a documentary with one of those stories that just begs to be told.

In the 1970s in Detroit, a man by the name of Rodriguez recorded an album called ‘Cold Fact.’  This album and his followup one sold almost nothing in the USA and everyone soon forgot about him.  But in South Africa it was quite a different story.  No one quite knew how the first Rodriguez album got there, but once it did, it became a staple in almost every household, with Rodriguez’s poetic lyrics providing a commentary on the establishment that helped many young people find the drive to stand up against Apartheid.

But unlike the other artists they listened to, like Elvis or The Rolling Stones, no one knew anything about Rodriguez or who he was, with their only picture of him the photo on the album cover of him sitting with sunglasses on.  There were many rumours surrounding the artist, including that he had committed suicide on stage.  Years later though, two men in South Africa decided they wanted to find out just who he was, so started an extensive study of his lyrics and search to try to find out the true story of Rodriguez.

What followed were twists that couldn’t have been written – and finally brought together both sides of a story that was so different in two nations, but only complete when both sides were finally joined.

Combining interviews with archival footage, as well as animated segments, Searching For Sugar Man is a documentary well worth seeing.  You’ll also want to check out the soundtrack, which is available on iTunes.


Searching for Sugar Man DVD Review By Nicole

**** (out of 4)

Sometimes an artist’s work touches people in unexpected ways.  Searching for Sugar Man tells the bizarre story of Sixto Rodriguez, a Mexican-American folk artist from Detroit who produced only two albums that never sold.  But somehow, his albums wound up in apartheid South Africa, where the empowering lyrics struck a chord with South African youth.  There, he became a huge star, as an icon for the everyman who wishes to be free.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez became a mystery, with little to no information about him on the bootlegged album covers.  The mystery of Rodriguez is eventually solved by South African record shop owner Stephen “Sugar” Segerman and music journalist Craig Bartholomew-Strydom.

Searching for Sugar Man is an empowering film.  There is incredible suspense as the mystery slowly gets solved, and the results are astonishing.  Told through interviews, home footage and cleverly animated music videos, Searching for Sugar Man is a real life mystery story that deserves to be recognized.


Searching for Sugar Man DVD Review By Maureen

***1/2 (out of 4)

Imagine becoming a rock superstar and not knowing about it.  The Oscar-nominated documentary Searching for Sugar Man tells the fascinating true story of 1970s Mexican-American singer and songwriter Sixto Rodriguez whose social commentary album Cold Fact went nowhere in the United States, but thanks to bootlegged copies became an incredibly popular musical inspiration in South Africa for the anti-apartheid movement.

Fast forward to the 1990s, when South African record shop owner Stephen “Sugar” Segerman, a big Rodriguez fan, decides to search for the man who brought the brilliant song “Sugar Man” to life.  With the help of journalist friend Craig Bartholomew-Strydom, Segerman sets out to sort fact from fiction and piece together the story of Sixto Rodriguez.  The result is surprising and uplifting.

Director Malik Bendjelloul has done a really nice job piecing together old footage of Rodriguez performing along with interviews with family and friends.  The entire film has his music as a backdrop.  It turns out South Africa had it right all along – Rodriguez is a really talented musician and a decent human being.

Searching for Sugar Man is a feel-good documentary that plays as a nicely done concert film as well.  This film deserves its Best Documentary Oscar nomination.


Searching for Sugar Man DVD Review By Tony

**** (out of 4)

Please note that if you don’t already know the story of Searching for Sugar Man, there are some mild spoilers in this review.

Searching for Sugar Man is a documentary about the folksinger Sixto Rodriguez. Discovered in a smoky Detroit waterfront bar called The Sewer singing with his back to the crowd, Rodriguez had two LP recordings in the early 1970s that were critically acclaimed but went nowhere, except in South Africa where they were huge. Rebellious young Africaners under the strict censorship of Apartheid were inspired by his provocative lyrics. However, South Africans were convinced by the rumour that he had long ago taken his own life.

The first half of the film plays like a mystery story with a number of South Africans involved in the music industry trying to find out what really happened. In the late 1990s with Apartheid finally abolished, they were shocked and delighted to discover that Rodriguez was still alive, living very modestly in Detroit as a construction worker. Along with his three daughters, he was invited to South Africa where he found himself playing four sold out stadium shows to adoring crowds.

Over the intervening fifteen years, Rodriguez has been very content continuing to work with his hands in obscurity at home, interrupted by occasional experiences of rock star status in South Africa. Now 70 years old, since the documentary has appeared, he is finally being invited to festivals elsewhere, including the U.S.

The soundtrack provides a generous sample of the artist’s songs, which makes us wonder even more why it never found a place of honour among the early work of contemporaries such as Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen or Tom Waits. Searching for Sugar Man is one documentary this year that shouldn’t be missed.


Consensus: The intriguing true story of Rodriguez, a little known American singer whose music helped lead to an uprising against apartheid in South Africa, Searching for Sugar Man is a fascinating and inspirational documentary.  ***3/4 (Out of 4)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Maria permalink
    February 7, 2013 1:45 am

    To everyone who is refuting the link between Rodriguez’ music and the white opposition to Apartheid – it’s simple: listen to his lyrics, consider a suffocatingly closed society, hated and isolated from abroad. Mix the 2. Pour.


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