The story behind SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN is a textbook definition of truth being stranger that fiction. A Mexican-American singer/songwriter with a social conscious and a unique definition of success inspires a generation of South Africans to rebel against Apartheid with his music. The twist, he has no idea he’s famous there, and his fans on the other side of the planet have no idea who the man behind the music is. When I spoke to the artist in question, Rodriguez, and the Swedish filmmaker, Malik Bendjelloul, who brought his story to the screen, the first thing I wanted to know was what success as a concept meant to each of them, before delving a little into Rodriguez’s spirituality, the which colors every aspect of his life, taking a moment to note that July 10, 2012, the day we sat down together, was Rodriguez’s 70th birthday. The two spoke passionately, though as a study in comparisons and contrasts, there are few to match them. Rodriguez thoughtful and measured in his answers that evoked the universe as a whole as well as the question posed, and Bendjelloul, a man virtually bubbling over with enthusiam and equally committed to his art.
What is apparent in every word they say, though, is an emormous respect for each other’s craft, and the sort of rapport from which the best documentaries spring.