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TCFF Spotlight: Searching for Sugar Man

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The mysterious and elusive 1970s rock icon Rodriguez | Sony Pictures Classics

The train is rolling towards the 8th Annual Traverse City Film Festival, which takes place July 31 – Aug. 5, 2012. We’re going to start spotlighting some of the films here on Reel Life With Jane, and offer opinions on what should be at the very top of your viewing list.

The opening night film, Searching for Sugar Man by director Malik Bendjelloul, is a documentary that tells the true story of Rodriguez, one of the greatest 1970s rock icons … who never was. I predict this will be a big hit at the TC Film Fest because 1) we’re just five hours north of Detroit and a lot of downstaters venture north, not just for the film festival, but all year round; and 2) it’s a compelling story about a real-life person who seemed destined for stardom, but then vanished off the face of the earth. Or so it seems.

Rodriguez was discovered in a Detroit bar in the late 1960s by two producers who were struck by his soulful melodies and prophetic lyrics. The comparisons to Bob Dylan were justified. The producers recorded an album they thought would blow people out of their seats and secure his reputation as the greatest recording artist of his generation.

In fact, the album bombed big-time, and the singer disappeared into obscurity amid rumors of a gruesome on-stage suicide. In the 1970s, a bootleg recording found its way into apartheid South Africa and, over the next two decades, Rodriguez’ music helped fuel the protest movement there. The film follows the story of two South African fans who set out to learn what really happened to their hero.

Searching for Sugar Man has already scored a special jury prize and audience award at the Sundance Film Festival, as well as an audience award at the Tribeca Film Festival. Check out the trailer below.

Is Searching for Sugar Man on your must-see list? 

Jane Boursaw is the founder and editor-in-chief of Reel Life With Jane. Her credits include hundreds of print and online publications, including The New York Times, People Magazine, Variety, Moviefone, TV Squad and more. Follow her on Twitter at @reellifejane.

Jane Boursaw has written posts on Reel Life With Jane.


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