Sundance Winner Searching for Sugar Man Extols Humility, Character and Dignity of Work
Mysterious '70s Troubadour "Jesus" Rodriguez Redefines Counter-Culture for Modern Times
NEW YORK, August 13, 2012 /Christian Newswire
/ -- The winner of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival's prestigious Special Jury Prize and World Cinema Audience Award, SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN, is as counter-cultural a film as one can imagine – but not in the way you might think. Far from the edgy, progressive fare that tends to emerge from the Sundance winner's circle, SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN represents a new kind of counter-culturalism, one that bathes in warm light such "radical" concepts as servant leadership, the dignity of human labor, and commitment and connectedness to one's family.
Photo: Rodriguez, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Sony Pictures Classics is set to release this mesmerizing true story that turns the worldly conclusions of the 1960s Cultural Revolution utterly on their head. SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN is a film about truth, hope, inspiration, and the resonating power of music. Momentarily hailed as the finest recording artist of his generation, Sixto "Jesus" Rodriguez disappeared into oblivion – rising again like Lazarus in a completely different context a continent away. Unbeknownst to the reclusive inner city laborer and family man in inner city Detroit, his music and image enjoyed a parallel life full of acclaim and success half a world away.
The shocking but ultimately thrilling story of Rodriguez enables us to experience what it would be like if someone like Bob Dylan disappeared at the height of his success and returned as a humble laborer forty years later to comment on the perils of fame, fortune and material idolatry. If you have ever wondered what it would be like if a converted Jim Morrison actually did return from decades in ascetic obscurity to share all he had learned from his spiritual quest, this non-fiction masterpiece provides just such wondrous satisfaction.
"My father has been rich in many things – but not necessarily material things," commented the shy balladeer's daughter, Regan Rodriguez, an avid volunteer for organizations that serve underprivileged adults and children. "SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN is a testament to his unbelievable story. My whole life I watched my dad struggle and try to stake his ground. He provided for us by the sweat of his brow, without complaint. Now, finally, I get to see him appreciated as the authentic artist and visionary that he is. It is so satisfying; I can't even explain how good it feels."
Filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul, who has directed music documentaries about U2, Elton John and others, spent six months travelling around Africa and South America looking for good stories until he eventually found one in Cape Town, South Africa. "I was completely speechless – I hadn't heard a better story in my life. I had never heard Rodriguez's music [and] was almost afraid to listen to it, thinking the chances were very slim that the music would be as good as the story. But I started to listen to it and couldn't believe my ears – literally. I thought my feelings for the story might have influenced my judgment, and I needed to play it for other people to see if they agreed. Their reactions convinced me – these really were songs on a level equal to the best work of Bob Dylan, even the Beatles," Bendjelloul says.
The racial, anti-Apartheid milieu of the film adds further depth and texture to make SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN even more appealing to Christians who look to movies for enlightenment, inspiration and hope, in addition to entertainment. The much detested Apartheid regime of 1970s South Africa created an underground cultural atmosphere welcoming of a singer with a Hispanic name and Hispanic looks. In the America of that time – even in the supposedly enlightened and progressive music industry – if your name was Rodriguez you were supposed to play Mariachi music on the margins. So in a fascinating subtext we see how Rodriguez posed a serious challenge to the white rock scene – the Neil Youngs and Bob Dylans of the world – which was still very much an "exclusive members" club. Yet another sterling insight provided by this pleasant surprise of a film.
In the late '60s, two celebrated producers who were struck by his soulful melodies and prophetic lyrics discovered a musician in a Detroit bar. They recorded an album that they believed was going to secure his reputation as one of the greatest recording artists of his generation. In fact, the album bombed and the singer disappeared into obscurity amid rumors of a gruesome on-stage suicide. But a bootleg recording found its way into apartheid South Africa and, over the next two decades, it became a phenomenon. Two South African fans then set out to find out what really happened to their hero. Their investigation led them to a story more extraordinary than any of the existing myths about the artist known as Rodriguez. SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN is a film about hope and inspiration, truth vs. illusion, and the resonating power of music.
SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN, a Sony Pictures Classics release, is now playing in Los Angeles and New York and will open in cities around the country in the coming weeks. For more information and interview opportunities please contact Allied Faith & Family's Kellie Barnes. Visit www.sonyclassics.com/searchingforsugarman