I usually don’t do back-to-back blogs anymore but I have to do this one:
Go see ‘Searching for Sugar Man.’ If it’s not playing where you are yet, find out when it will – here’s the site with trailer. If you have to drive to get to the theater, go. If you don’t think it’s worth it, blame me but go first – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
‘Searching for Sugar Man’ is about Rodriguez, an inner-city Detroit singer who made two albums around 1970-71 that sold ‘six copies’ in the words of his record company president. Six copies in America, that is, which was all that mattered to the suits. And then disappeared, amid rumors that he’d killed himself on stage one night.
In the ensuing years, Rodriguez’ two records got passed around, often as bootlegged cassettes, in South Africa and eventually became the heartbeat of the anti-apartheid movement, to the point that, in the 90’s, fans from the new South Africa were shocked to discover that he was unknown in America. A journalist from there decided to find out how the man died – and got a whole lot more than he bargained for, in the most delightful and uplifting way imaginable. Several times in this film, crucial players say, “I thought that was the end – but the best was yet to come” and it’s true, over and over.
I went with Smitty and a friend of her’s from work. When the film ended, we were pretty much speechless. Anyone who knows us could predict that wouldn’t last long – we were chattering about nothing else the rest of the night. This documentary possesses a couple of gifts we almost never get from anything anymore.
I don’t want to give too much away. I will just say this – we go to movies all the time and tell ourselves we were surprised but 99 times out of 100, that’s not really true. Maybe the story took a left when we expected a right, maybe it changed up on us a bit and we’re thrown off our expectations but that’s not the same as really being thrown, really seeing something with new eyes.
This documentary took me totally by surprise at least twice. And I’d seen the trailer and read everything I could find before it opened (which, by the way, I don’t recommend – the most wonderful way to discover it, I think, is just to go and let it take you through its story in its own way).
Anyhow, I was moved not just by what the filmmakers found but by the qualities of the artist and his music and his response to his own art and its power. This movie is highly recommended for anyone who loves any kind of art and absolutely essential for anyone who’s ever set out to make art, because it deals heavily (not heavy-handedly, mind you) with two really big issues:
1) that an artist can never predict the effect of his or her work and
2) that the art is part of who you are, whether anyone else knows about it or not, whether anyone hears it or appreciates it, whether you get paid big bucks or none at all. The point of art is doing it and doing your best and then you hope it will find a home. Sometimes it does right away, sometimes it never does and sometimes the miracle comes out of the sky long after you’ve given up – and doesn’t change a thing. And that’s the right answer too.
And if that in particular sounds intriguing to you, then you must see this film.