Rodriguez is a gentle, honorable guy and very talented musician, but “SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN,” for all that it has and will do for his career, does him a disservice by omitting some of his history in favor of enhancing its story.
“SUGAR MAN” tells how Rodriguez became a superstar in South Africa, yet he knew nothing about his success for decades, forcing him to make a meager living in the construction and demolition business. A web site set up by a South African journalist and a jeweler helped them track Rodriguez to Detroit. In 1998, nearly 30 years after the release of the first of his two full-length LPs, Rodriguez finally played six sold-out shows in South Africa.
But that’s not the whole story. His two records didn’t fail to make an impact, as the documentary leads you to believe. They got distribution and found listeners in Australia, resulting in two tours of the country, one in 1979, another in 1981 in which he opened for Midnight Oil. The tours even allowed for the production of a live album. This is a large oversight. Had it been incorporated into the film, it would have colored it, and its producers must have known it would.
“SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN” is worth watching, but it does not deserve an Academy Award. Rodriguez is a brilliant songwriter and I look forward to listening to his two records. But I need facts when it comes to documentary.