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Searching for Sugar Man

Searching for Sugar Man
US theatrical release poster
Directed by Malik Bendjelloul
Produced by Malik Bendjelloul
Simon Chinn
Written by Malik Bendjelloul
Starring Sixto Rodriguez
Music by Sixto Rodriguez
Cinematography Camilla Skagerström
Edited by Malik Bendjelloul
Red Box Film
Passion Pictures
Canfield Pictures
Sveriges Television
Yle Co-Production
Hysteria Film
Distributed by Studio Canal (UK)
NonStop Entertainment (Sweden)
Sony Pictures Classics (US)
Release dates
  • 19 January 2012 (2012-01-19) (Sundance)
  • 26 July 2012 (2012-07-26) (UK)
  • 27 July 2012 (2012-07-27) (US limited)
  • 24 August 2012 (2012-08-24) (Sweden)
Running time 86 minutes
Country Sweden
United Kingdom
Language English
Box office $9,122,406[1]

Searching for Sugar Man is a 2012 Swedish–British documentary film directed and written by Malik Bendjelloul which details the efforts of two Cape Town fans in the late 1990s, Stephen "Sugar" Segerman and Craig Bartholomew-Strydom, to find out whether the rumoured death of American musician Sixto Rodriguez was true and, if not, to discover what had become of him. Rodriguez's music, which never took off in the United States, had become wildly popular in South Africa but little was known about him there.

On 10 February 2013, the film won the BAFTA Award for Best Documentary at the 66th British Academy Film Awards in London,[2] and two weeks later it won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 85th Academy Awards in Hollywood.[3][4] Bendjelloul committed suicide a year later.


  • Production 1
  • Release 2
  • Reception 3
    • Critical response 3.1
      • Omissions 3.1.1
      • Awards and nominations 3.1.2
  • Soundtrack 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Initially using Super 8 film to record stylised shots for the film, director Malik Bendjelloul ran out of money for more film to record the final few shots. After three years of cutting room work the main financial backers of the film threatened to withdraw funding to finish it.[5] He resorted to filming the remaining stylised shots on his smartphone using an iPhone app called 8mm Vintage Camera.[6]


Searching for Sugar Man was the opening film at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2012,[7] where it won the Special Jury Prize and the Audience Award for best international documentary. It was released in the United Kingdom on 26 July 2012, and had a limited release (New York and Los Angeles) in the United States the following day.

Searching for Sugar Man performed very well during its theatrical release, earning $3,696,196 at the US box office (47th of all US docs on Box Office Mojo).[8] It also became one of the highest earning UK films in its category.[9]


Critical response

Searching for Sugar Man has received widespread critical acclaim. As of May 2014, the film holds a 95% "Certified Fresh" rating on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 8/10, based on reviews from 117 critics.[10]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a glowing four-star review, writing "I hope you're able to see this film...and yes, it exists because we need for it to."[11] The New York Times critic Manohla Dargis also wrote a positive review, calling the film "a hugely appealing documentary about fans, faith and an enigmatic Age of Aquarius musician who burned bright and hopeful before disappearing."[12] Critic Dargis subsequently named Searching for Sugar Man one of the 10 best films of 2012.[13]


The film's narrative omits that Rodriguez was also very successful in Australia in the 1970s and became aware of it enough to tour there extensively in 1979 and 1981.[14] Because of this omission some critics have called the documentary "myth-making".[15][16] However, the film focuses on his mysterious reputation in South Africa and the attempts of music historians there to track him down in the mid-1990s. South Africans were unaware of his Australian success due to the harsh censorship enacted by the apartheid regime[17] coupled with international sanctions that made any communication with the outside world on the subject of banned artists virtually impossible.[18]

Awards and nominations

  • Searching for Sugar Man won the Best Documentary category at the 85th Academy Awards.[19] Rodriguez declined to attend the award ceremony as he didn't want to overshadow the filmmakers' achievement if he came up on stage with them. Upon accepting his award, Chinn remarked on such generosity, "That just about says everything about that man and his story that you want to know.”[20] However, Malik Bendjelloul also said on stage, "Thanks to one of the greatest singers ever, Rodriguez."[21]

The film was also the recipient of the Australian Film Critics Association award for Best Documentary of 2012,[30] beating locally produced musical documentary All The Way Through Evening.[31]


Searching for Sugar Man is a 2012 soundtrack album from the documentary containing a compilation of songs by Rodriguez from his two studio albums. It reached No. 3 in Sweden in early 2013 when the Academy Award nomination was announced, and had been in the charts for 26 weeks by the time it received the award in February 2013. In Denmark it reached No. 18 and in New Zealand it reached No. 24.

See also


  1. ^ "Searching for Sugar Man". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 14 May 2014. 
  2. ^ Full list of Bafta award winnersThe Independent, 10 February 2013: . Retrieved 26 February 2013
  3. ^ The 2013 Oscars Best Documentary AwardDocumentaryHive, 25 February 2013: . Retrieved 26 February 2013
  4. ^ "The 85th Academy Awards (2013) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). Retrieved 14 May 2014. 
  5. ^ Sveriges Radio, Sommar i P1: Malik Benjelloul; Summary in English: "You've only got three months" Retrieved 14 May 2014
  6. ^ $1.99 iPhone app saved Oscars film CNN Money
  7. ^ Sundance: The Electrifying Search For Sugar, 21 January 2012: . Retrieved 26 February 2013
  8. ^ "Searching for Sugar Man on Box Office Mojo".  
  9. ^ Follows, S. (November 2014), What are the highest grossing low-budget British films? - Retrieved 27/11/14
  10. ^ "Searching for Sugar Man".  
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger (8 August 2012). "Searching for Sugar Man".  
  12. ^ Dargis, Manohla (26 July 2012). "Searching for Sugar Man".  
  13. ^ Dargis, Manohla (14 December 2012). "Against the Odds, Smart Films Thrive at the Box Office". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 December 2012. 
  14. ^ Watt, Andrew. "International man of mystery". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
  15. ^ Stewart, Rebecca L. "Searching For Sugar Man: myth-making at its best?". The Vine. Retrieved 12 February 2013. 
  16. ^ Cody, Bill. Searching For Sugar Man' – True Story or the Making of a Myth?"'". Rope of Silicon. Retrieved 12 February 2013. 
  17. ^ Davis, Sue. "Music that impacted anti-apartheid struggle". Workers World. Retrieved 10 June 2013. 
  18. ^ Rohter, Larry. "A Real-Life Fairy Tale, Long in the Making and Set to Old Tunes". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 June 2013. 
  19. ^ McCollum, Brian (10 January 2013). "Sixto Rodriguez rides the wave of 'Searching for Sugar Man' success". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  20. ^ Reuters, Sapa-AFP. "Sugar Man takes Oscar". DailyNews. Retrieved 25 February 2013. 
  21. ^ Germain, David (25 February 2013). "Oscars 2013: 'Argo' Takes Home Best Picture at 85th Academy Awards". Moviefone. Retrieved 25 February 2013. 
  22. ^ "IDA Documentary Awards 2012 | International Documentary Association". Retrieved 17 January 2013. 
  23. ^ Associated Press – Fri, 11 January 2013 (11 January 2013). "Affleck, Argo win big at Critics' Choice Awards".  
  24. ^ Gallo, Phil (25 June 2012). "Rodriguez Doc 'Searching for Sugar Man' Wins Audience Award at L.A. Film Fest". Billboard. Retrieved 2 August 2012. 
  25. ^ "Durban International Film Festival: All the winners | Welcome to The Movies". Retrieved 2 August 2012. 
  26. ^ "34th Moscow Int’l Film Festival Award Winners | Filmmaking in Russia". 30 June 2012. Retrieved 2 August 2012. 
  27. ^ "Winners of the IDFA 2012 Awards announced". Amsterdam, Netherlands:  
  28. ^ "Doha Tribeca Film Festival".  
  29. ^ "The 2013 Cinema Eye Honors for Nonfiction Filmmaking". Retrieved 17 January 2013. 
  30. ^ Krausz, Peter. "AFCA Award Winners". 22 Feb 2013. AFCA. Retrieved 1 April 2013. 
  31. ^ Media, Subculture. "AFCA 2012 Nominees". 22 Feb 2012. Subculture Media. Retrieved 1 April 2013. 

External links

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