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Malik Bendjelloul’s Searching for Sugar Man

Searching for Sugar Man

Searching for Sugar Man

Searching for Sugar Man, Sweden/UK/Finland 2012. Directed by Malik Bendjelloul, written by Malik Bendjelloul, Stephen “Sugar” Segerman, and Craig Bartholomew Strydom.

Atelier Theater, Row 3, Seat 10. Original version with German subs.

(This post originally appeared, in slightly different form, at my Instagram account betweendrafts.)

First off, don’t read up on Searching for Sugar Man first, or Rodriguez, or anything. Just watch the movie.

Many years ago, I’m too scared to check, an Acutely Important Person™ very dear to me called me up from far away to enthusiastically recommend the Searching for Sugar Man documentary to me. However, all I could do back then was get familiar with Sixto Rodriguez’s music, as the movie itself remained stubbornly elusive. Today at noon, finally, there was a special screening at a movie theater around where I live.

This documentary has won about every award in existence, including an Academy Award, and for good reasons. It’s incredibly good, incredibly touching, it has an incredible subject matter, and an incredible story. (With regard to the latter, it has been nitpicked by some that the movie doesn’t mention Rodriguez’s Australian concerts; but it’s blindingly obvious why the movie’s particular viewpoint had to omit them.)

Direction and edit by Malik Bendjelloul are fantastic, and so is Camilla Skagerström’s cinematography whose approach to the journey’s different cities and districts is stunning and beautiful. Most of it was shot on Super 8 video; then there’s documentary footage also on Super 8; some scenes are animated, which are great; and when the director ran out of money during the editing stage, he took the final shots with the (then) $1.99 “8mm Vintage Camera” app by Nexvio on an iPhone. Well, it panned out! The movie was distributed on 35mm film and, luckily, projected from a matching 35mm analog projector at the theater I went to.

Among the scenes that stood out to me in particular was the one when someone remembers how Rodriguez slept on the couch in a luxurious hotel room, so that the maid wouldn’t have to make the bed the next day. It instantly reminded me of the recurring motif in the Wachowskis’ criminally underrated Jupiter Ascending, when the alarm clock is set slightly early so that a few precious minutes can be savored before the day’s cleaning duties for rich people wash away any idea of personal time.

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