Rodriguez was an up and coming American singer-songwriter in the '70s, playing intriguing Bob Dylan-esque acoustic folk tunes. Despite holding the promise of becoming a star, Rodriguez faded into obscurity. He was rumoured to have committed suicide on stage, but in fact settled into a hard-working, quiet life as a construction worker. However, completely unknown to Rodriguez, a copy of his album had found an audience in South Africa where, decades later, he got one more shot at fame.
Swedish filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul, in his directorial debut, retells this incredible true and inspiring story.Time Out caught up with him to discuss the film.
Malik, this is a fascinating story, what attracted you?
I was just very moved. It’s a beautiful, life-affirming story, the best story I’ve heard in my life. And then I heard the music and when you really get into the songs you never grow tired of them. It is something special.
Did you expect this much attention?
No, absolutely not. I had no expectations. I thought the story was good but I didn’t know if I could reach people and now there’s no end to it.
What were Rodriguez’s reactions to making the film?
Initially he was very reluctant and it wasn’t because he wanted to be difficult, it’s just because that’s who he is. He is a very, very private man with a lot of integrity. For him it’s really hard to be in front of the camera.
Did this make the process difficult at all?
I had to think about how to make the film with as much dignity as he has. I didn’t want to create the scandal version; I wanted to make the beautiful version, which I think is the most true version.
Do you feel you’ve impacted his life?
In a way I did, I guess. It feels like this would happen anyway because the music’s that good, but the only thing I can say is it happened now. He’s seventy years old so it’s pretty good that it happened now. It would be a bit sad if it happened too late.
Searching for Sugar Man screens from Thu Oct 4.
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