Searching for Sugar Man

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Searching for Sugar Man
US theatrical release poster
Directed byMalik Bendjelloul
Written byMalik Bendjelloul
Produced by
StarringSixto Rodriguez
CinematographyCamilla Skagerström
Edited byMalik Bendjelloul
Music byRodriguez
Distributed by
  • NonStop Entertainment
  • StudioCanal
    (United Kingdom)
Release dates
  • 19 January 2012 (2012-01-19) (Sundance)
  • 26 July 2012 (2012-07-26) (United Kingdom)
  • 24 August 2012 (2012-08-24) (Sweden)
  • 22 February 2013 (2013-02-22) (Finland)
Running time
86 minutes
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom
  • Finland
Box office$9.1 million[1]

Searching for Sugar Man is a 2012 documentary film about a South African cultural phenomenon, written and directed by Malik Bendjelloul, which details the efforts in the late 1990s of two Cape Town fans, Stephen "Sugar" Segerman and Craig Bartholomew Strydom, to find out whether the rumoured death of American musician Sixto Rodriguez was true and, if not, to discover what had become of him. Rodriguez's music, which had never achieved success in his home country of the United States, had become very popular in South Africa, although little was known about him there.

On 10 February 2013, the film won the BAFTA Award for Best Documentary at the 66th British Academy Film Awards in London[2] and two weeks later, it won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 85th Academy Awards in Hollywood.[3][4]


While he initially used Super 8 film to record some stylised shots for the film, director Malik Bendjelloul ran out of money for more film to record the final few shots. After three years of cutting-room work, the main financial backers of the film threatened to withdraw funding to finish it.[5] Bendjelloul resorted to filming the remaining stylised shots on his smartphone using an iPhone app called 8mm Vintage Camera.[6]


Searching for Sugar Man was the opening film at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2012,[7] where it won the Special Jury Prize and the Audience Award for best international documentary. It was released in the United Kingdom on 26 July 2012, and had a limited release (New York and Los Angeles) in the United States the following day.

The film performed well during its theatrical release, earning $3,696,196 at the US box office (81st of all US docs on Box Office Mojo).[8]


Critical response[edit]

Searching for Sugar Man received widespread critical acclaim. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, it has a 95% approval rating based on reviews from 133 critics, with an average score of 8.0/10; the site's "critics consensus" reads: "A fascinating portrait of a forgotten musical pioneer, Searching for Sugar Man is by turns informative and mysterious."[9] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 79 out of 100 based on 32 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[10]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a glowing four-star review, writing "I hope you're able to see this film...and yes, it exists because we need for it to."[11] The New York Times critic Manohla Dargis also wrote a positive review, calling the film "a hugely appealing documentary about fans, faith and an enigmatic Age of Aquarius musician who burned bright and hopeful before disappearing."[12] Dargis subsequently named Searching for Sugar Man one of the 10 best films of 2012.[13]


The film's narrative of a South African story about an American musician omits that Rodriguez was successful in Australia in the 1970s and toured there in 1979 and 1981.[14] Because of this omission, some critics have accused it of engaging in "myth-making".[15][16] However, the film focuses on Rodriguez's mysterious reputation in South Africa and the attempts of music historians there to track him down in the mid-1990s. South Africans were unaware of his Australian success due to the harsh censorship enacted by the apartheid regime,[17] coupled with international sanctions that made any communication with the outside world on the subject of banned artists virtually impossible.[18]

Awards and nominations[edit]


The film's soundtrack is a compilation of songs from Rodriguez's two studio albums, as well as three tracks from his unfinished third album. It reached No. 3 in Sweden in early 2013 when the Academy Award nomination was announced, and had been in the charts for 26 weeks by the time it received the award in February 2013. In Denmark, the soundtrack reached No. 18, and in New Zealand it reached No. 24.


  1. ^ "Searching for Sugar Man". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  2. ^ "Full list of Bafta award winners",The Independent, 10 February 2013: Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  3. ^ "The 2013 Oscars Best Documentary Award",, 25 February 2013.Archived 19 June 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  4. ^ "The 85th Academy Awards (2013) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. AMPAS. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  5. ^ Sveriges Radio, Sommar i P1: Florent Chouvet; Summary in English: "You've only got three months" Retrieved 14 May 2014
  6. ^ $1.99 iPhone app saved Oscars film CNN Money
  7. ^, 21 January 2012: Sundance: The Electrifying Search For Sugar Man. Retrieved 26 February 2013
  8. ^ "Searching for Sugar Man on Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 10 August 2023.
  9. ^ "Searching for Sugar Man (2012)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  10. ^ "Searching for Sugar Man Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger (8 August 2012). "Searching for Sugar Man". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 19 August 2012.
  12. ^ Dargis, Manohla (26 July 2012). "Searching for Sugar Man". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 August 2012.
  13. ^ Dargis, Manohla (14 December 2012). "Against the Odds, Smart Films Thrive at the Box Office". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  14. ^ Watt, Andrew (28 February 2013). "International man of mystery". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  15. ^ Stewart, Rebecca L. "Searching For Sugar Man: myth-making at its best?". The Vine. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
  16. ^ Cody, Bill (21 January 2013). "'Searching For Sugar Man' – True Story or the Making of a Myth?". Rope of Silicon. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
  17. ^ Davis, Sue (9 October 2012). "Music that impacted anti-apartheid struggle". Workers World. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
  18. ^ Rohter, Larry (20 July 2012). "A Real-Life Fairy Tale, Long in the Making and Set to Old Tunes". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
  19. ^ McCollum, Brian (10 January 2013). "Sixto Rodriguez rides the wave of 'Searching for Sugar Man' success". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
  20. ^ Sapa-AFP. "Sugar Man takes Oscar". DailyNews. Reuters. Retrieved 25 February 2013.
  21. ^ Germain, David (25 February 2013). "Oscars 2013: 'Argo' Takes Home Best Picture at 85th Academy Awards". Moviefone. Archived from the original on 11 April 2013. Retrieved 25 February 2013.
  22. ^ "IDA Documentary Awards 2012 | International Documentary Association". Archived from the original on 19 April 2012. Retrieved 17 January 2013.
  23. ^ "Affleck, Argo win big at Critics' Choice Awards". Yahoo! News. Associated Press. 11 January 2013. Retrieved 17 January 2013.
  24. ^ Gallo, Phil (25 June 2012). "Rodriguez Doc 'Searching for Sugar Man' Wins Audience Award at L.A. Film Fest". Billboard. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
  25. ^ "Durban International Film Festival: All the winners | Welcome to The Movies". 30 July 2012. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
  26. ^ "34th Moscow Int'l Film Festival Award Winners | Filmmaking in Russia". 30 June 2012. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
  27. ^ "Winners of the IDFA 2012 Awards announced". Amsterdam, Netherlands: International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. Archived from the original on 29 January 2013. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  28. ^ "Doha Tribeca Film Festival". Doha Film Institute. Retrieved 17 January 2013.
  29. ^ "The 2013 Cinema Eye Honors for Nonfiction Filmmaking". Retrieved 17 January 2013.
  30. ^ Krausz, Peter (22 February 2013). "AFCA Award Winners". AFCA. Retrieved 1 April 2013.
  31. ^ "AFCA 2012 Nominees". Subculture Media. 22 February 2012. Retrieved 1 April 2013.

External links[edit]