Searching For Sugar Man… The Story of Rodriguez, a masterpiece of a documentary that will leave you stunned and rather completely mind blown!
A couple of days ago, out of the blue I received an email invite from Secret Screenings to attend the screening of a documentary that told the story of the legend that is, Sixto Rodriguez, otherwise known simply as Rodriguez. Now being the massive fan I am I literally pounced at the opportunity, it was definitely something I would not miss for ANYTHING!
To give you an idea of what Rodriguez means to me personally, my life with Rodriguez started from a very early age, I used to sit in my room in the Drakensberg and go through old cassette tapes that my folks had, it's the one tape (apart from another labelled "Smoking In The Boys Room") that I clearly remember since it was at that moment that I was really, without any influence but my very own curiosity and appreciation, introduced to the man who would set the foundation for my journey in music throughout my life. To be honest, I remember I was so young that I could not read even and pronounce the word Rodriguez, only the album name that was written on the tape, Cold Fact. My love for his music only grew stronger over the years when I was able to understand the music and lyrics… even though unlike most of my favourite bands releasing multiple albums, the cold fact was this it was only this one album, completely timeless, a true gem and nothing less.
I got myself a beer and found a seat at the Troxy theatre, not really knowing what to expect since I do know a fair amount about the story behind Rodriguez but nothing could prepare me for the depth at which the story would unfold and the way it would be told. I'm going to try to be very vague because this definitely has to be on the shelf of documentaries you have to see before you die, and I really want you to see it and experience everything I experienced by watching it. The story begins with this mysterious man playing with his back to the audience in smoke-filled bars in Detroit, Michigan at night and wandered around the city where some thought he was homeless person, slipping through almost completely unnoticed. It moves on to the recording of Cold Fact with interviews from the producers who thought the album would explode since he was thought to be possibly in the same league as Bob Dylan, however surprisingly the album went nowhere and Rodriguez just carried on with life doing his thing. It goes on to show how the album became a symbolic in South African culture back in the 70's, it runs through interesting theories of how the album actually landed up on South African shores in the first place, and of course the many tales of how Rodriguez "killed himself". As you very well know it was during the peak of the Apartheid era and show the influence it had on people rebelling against apartheid. A very interesting part is obviously how the search for Rodriguez began and how it all unfolded, to the amazement of those searching for the story behind arguably South Africa's most iconic album of all time, but finding a person very much alive after believing that he was long gone. It then shows how he was brought to South Africa to perform in front of sellout crowds and the total disbelief of his employer at what lay for Rodriguez on the other side of the world. I won't lie, there were times during this tale that my heart chugged up a few times and pressure started building around eyes, it's absolutely extraordinary, the way in which the story is told and conveyed is absolutely magnificent that it will cause emotions to run high within yourself, if anything, it seriously will make you think differently, he will make you think differently. Such a great story told in such an unforgettable and remarkable way, it's definitely got spot waiting in my DVD collection as soon as the DVD becomes available…its an absolute masterpiece!
And the end of the film, when you sitting there trying to digest the trail of thought that the film has left you with, as the credits are rolling, who should walk onto stage as the opening riff starts being played by a bass guitarist… well… do I really need to answer that one? Rodriguez himself! After the effect that the film just gave you, this was enough to literally make your mind explode. Rodriguez came onstage and belted out a few tracks which left the entire crowd in complete awe. People who had never heard of him in their lifetimes were screaming as if their favourite artist had just walked on to stage. The guy sitting next to me confirmed that exact thought for me by saying exactly that, he just said, he'd never heard of Rodriguez ever before but he was hands down an absolute legend!
I've now had the pleasure of seeing Rodriguez live three times, first time was at the Village Green in Durban in 1998, second was at The Barbican in London in 2010 and now the third time at The Troxy in London, and I can't wait to see him all over again..
Searching For Sugar Man is out in cinemas on 26th July… if you only watch one documentary in your lifetime, this is the one you should see!
Take a look at the trailer, it's the absolutely microscopic tip of the iceberg compared to the full story
There is someone, who it would be an absolute honour to shake hands with and let him know how much I appreciate the person that he is.
A crazy thought would be to get him on PharSide LIVE this Sunday for a chat, broadcasting out to Saffa's in London aswell as many Saffas back in SA, I know I'd be absolutely over the moon! So if anyone you know how anyone could get hold of the filmmakers or his agents or his agent or anyone to make it happen, you'd be doing a lot of people a massive good deed.
I'd like to thank Secret Screenings for an absolutely unforgettable experience, their format in itself is extremely amusing, such a great experience in itself, you go to screenings that nobody has any idea what is going to be shown, and if this is the level at which they do things, the wow! I'm definitely at the next one that's for sure!
And of course huge thanks to everyone involved in the making of this brilliant documentary!
I'll leave you with my own little tribute to Rodriguez I did a few years back… enjoy
Check out the Facebook page for "Searching For Sugar Man"