Star fi­nally gets to shine

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - MOVIES - LEIGH PAATSCH

THIS su­perb doc­u­men­tary tells the in­cred­i­ble story of an ob­scure Amer­i­can mu­si­cian who never dis­cov­ered he had be­come a su­per­star in an­other coun­try.

Known only as Ro­driguez, the sub­ject of this in­trigu­ing film was a gifted singer­song­writer who plied his trade briefly in the early 1970s.

At his barely de­tectable peak, the Mex­i­can­born trou­ba­dour played a hand­ful of small clubs in his home town of Detroit, re­leased two al­bums that never trou­bled the charts and then dis­ap­peared for good.

While Ro­driguez ( pic­tured) seem­ingly van­ished off the face of the earth, his de­but record, Cold Fact, mirac­u­lously be­came a mon­ster seller in South Africa al­most a decade af­ter it first sur­faced.

The quiet re­bel­lion and haunt­ing sel­f­re­flec­tion that de­fined Ro­driguez’s songs struck a pow­er­ful chord in a na­tion vir­tu­ally col­laps­ing in upon it­self dur­ing the heav­i­est days of the apartheid regime.

With no bi­o­graph­i­cal in­for­ma­tion at hand and no Wikipedia to check, Ro­driguez be­came some­thing of a mys­ti­cal mu­si­cal prophet to his far- flung fan­base.

The dis­turb­ing tale of Ro­driguez’s death – un­able to be ver­i­fied, nor dis­missed, as only the best ur­ban myths are – sim­ply served to mag­nify his iconic sta­tus in South Africa.

Aside from be­lat­edly in­tro­duc­ing a ma­jor artist few of us would be fa­mil­iar with, the im­pact achieved by Search­ing for Su­gar Man is de­rived from the sim­plic­ity of its ap­proach.

The many South African talk­ing heads that con­trib­ute to the doco are not merely ra­bid fans. The mu­sic of Ro­driguez meant the world to them dur­ing a dark pe­riod in their lives.

How­ever, now the clouds have parted, Ro­driguez’s work has lost none of its rel­e­vance nor abil­ity to trans­fix and cap­ti­vate.

Now show­ing State Cinema

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