movies: Mys­tery Man’s story fi­nally re­vealed............

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAY - – SARA STE­WART,

RO­DRIGUEZ was a young folk singer in Detroit, in the US, in the late 1960s. There were a lot of them then. How­ever, there was some­thing about this guy, his Bob Dy­lan-es­que voice and haunt­ing lyrics, that made lo­cal pro­duc­ers sit up and take notice. One of them got him a record deal. In 1970, Ro­driguez re­leased his de­but al­bum, Cold Fact. How many copies did he sell? ‘‘Six,’’ one in­dus­try in­sider says flatly. ‘‘No­body was in­ter­ested in lis­ten­ing to him,’’ laments an­other.

One of those copies was car­ried over to South Africa, where it was boot­legged and, for some rea­son, be­came as wildly pop­u­lar there – and later, in Aus­tralia and New Zealand – as it was ob­scure in the US.

Cold Fact sold an es­ti­mated half a mil­lion copies. Only no­body ever told Ro­driguez.

This is all you need to – all you re­ally should – know be­fore see­ing Search­ing For Su­gar Man, a ter­rific doc­u­men­tary about a decades-long search, by two South African Ro­driguez fans, for the story be­hind their enig­matic pop idol.

Big­ger than Elvis, they say, he pro­vided the an­thems for a gen­er­a­tion of anti-apartheid protests – and yet, leg­end has it, de­spon­dently torched him­self on stage one tragic night. Or did he?

Di­rec­tor Ma­lik Bend­jel­loul ex­pertly paces this strange and mov­ing film, half mys­tery and half med­i­ta­tion on art, fame, the mu­sic biz and the def­i­ni­tion of a mean­ing­ful life.

Some ques­tions are left frus­trat­ingly unan­swered, though: How, even in the pre-in­ter­net Stone Age, a record­ing artist could be so cut off from contact with and, more sig­nif­i­cantly, roy­al­ties from an en­tire coun­try?

Sus­sex Records founder Clarence Avant, os­ten­si­bly re­spon­si­ble for the lat­ter, gives the film’s most men­ac­ing in­ter­view, neatly sweep­ing the is­sue aside while get­ting misty about Ro­driguez’s in­abil­ity to hit it big at home in the US.

In­ter­wo­ven through the film, set to win­try streetscapes in Detroit and his­toric footage of South African protests, are songs by the artist, who sounds so like some of the big­gest names of his era it’s baf­fling so many peo­ple never heard of him.

Some say Ro­driguez’s come­back could now in­clude a trip to the Os­cars.

It cer­tainly in­cludes an Aus­tralian tour and a re­turn trip to the By­ron Bay Bluesfest next year.

Search­ing For Su­gar Man opens to­day. Ro­driguez, backed by Aussie surf rock­ers The Break, plays By­ron Bay Bluesfest, at Tya­garah, from March 28 to April 1, and The Tivoli, in Bris­bane, on April 1.

Search­ing For Su­gar Man.

US singer Ro­driguez, sub­ject of the riv­et­ing doc­u­men­tary

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.