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Movie review: 'Searching for Sugar Man' can't find all the answers

Published October 13, 2012 12:12 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

There's a fascinating story in the rise and fall of singer-songwriter Sixto Rodriguez, "the Latin Bob Dylan," and it's too bad that the documentary "Searching for Sugar Man" doesn't tell enough of it.

Here's the bare-bones tale: Rodriguez (he went by his last name professionally) was discovered in a Detroit bar, recorded two moving albums that failed to sell, and never was heard from again — except in South Africa, where bootlegs of his plaintive songs about life and activism caught on with the opponents of apartheid, and his haunting songs became massive hits.

Director Malik Bendjelloul traces the origins of Rodriguez's career and music, and talks to the South Africans who were inspired by his music and labored to uncover what happened to the man.

The search yields surprises, but can't crack the big mystery of Rodriguez himself. And for that you can blame Rodriguez, for remaining enigmatic, and Bendjelloul, who seems more engaged with the legend and the music than with the real person.

movies@sltrib.com; nowsaltlake.com/movies —

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'Searching for Sugar Man'

Opens Friday, Oct. 5, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas; rated PG-13 for brief strong language and some drug references; 86 minutes. For more movie reviews, visit nowsaltlake.com/movies.