"He took all that torment, all that agony, all that confusion and pain, and he transformed it into something beautiful. He's like the silkworm, you know?"
Rodriguez aka "Sugar Man" was a bar musician whose soulful sound and textured lyrics caught the attention of Detroit record producers. They expected great things when his album Cold Fact was released; but sales were virtually nil, and Rodriguez disappeared into obscurity.
A copy of the album made its way to South Africa, where it became iconic—and even served as inspiration in the anti-apartheid movement. "If you took a family from South Africa, a normal, middle-class family, and looked through their record collection, you'd find Abbey Road, Neil Young's Harvest, and Cold Fact. It was a word-of-mouth success."
Reports of Rodriguez's suicide were only consistent in that all were grotesque and all on-stage—self-inflicted gun shot, self immolation, drug overdose. Two of his South African fans set out to discover the truth.
I love documentaries, but they're often about difficult subjects and emotionally painful to watch—resulting in the need for aprés-cinema Xanax or heavy drinking. Searching for Sugar Man offers a stranger-than-fiction story with an upbeat payoff and the bonus of fine music. This documentary is ultimately as sweet as its title.