Film The Rundown

Oscars 2013: Searching for Sugar Men


The red carpet has been laid out and those giant Oscar statues have been placed at the entrance to the Dolby Theatre – the stage is almost set for the 85th Annual Academy Awards.



While South Africa doesn’t have any official major nominations, there are still a few reasons to keep a keen eye on tonight’s awards, as the country may just have a positive “Oscar” story to report after the past week of unbelievable headlines. Searching for Sugar Man has been on an incredible journey since it first debuted at the Sundance Film Festival last year. Over the past 12 or so months, I’ve had so many people ask me about the fim, from the likes of American friends to director Judd Apatow and actor Paul Rudd. Michael Moore even went as far as to say it should have been nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. Hey, with the surprises the Academy pulled this year, anything could have happened.

It’s a story I have close attachment to – not only was I one of those who used to sing along to Rodriguez’ songs in my teen years, but I knew Sugar back in my UCT Radio days. He would tell me endless stories about the singer and his search for him. It was such a delight then, when I received an email from him ahead of last year’s Sundance, telling me Malik Bendjelloul’s film – which told of South Africa’s role in resuscitating the career of a forgotten American musician whose lyrics spoke of social injustice – would be debuting there.

The documentary isn’t only about one man’s humility and passion to do that which he loved and provide a decent living for his family. It’s also a story about dedication and commitment; Sugar worked tirelessly on the Rodriguez website and to connect the singer with South Africa. He and Brian Currin did so much for South African music at the time, setting up the SA Rock Digest that took advantage of the internet in the “early days.” Journalist Craig Bartholomew Strydom, who was doing his own searching too, also added his persistence and tenacity to the story. All essential elements of this feel-good and inspiring story. Topping it off, is the Swedish director himself, who worked for many years on the project, and didn’t even have the funds to finish it so did the music and graphics himself. He just kept going, believing and continuing when he could. For that, this is a story the world deserves to see over and over. With or without an Oscar win.


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