‘Searching for Sugarman’: A Review

| April 26, 2016 | 1 Comment

Sixto Rodriguez was an ordinary man from Detroit who strived to launch a singing career in the United States. He wrote songs about the political and economic turmoil around him, however, he failed to sell any records here, and he eventually gave up on his lifelong pursuit. Meanwhile, the record was sent to South Africa, and the music spread like wildfire. Its lyrics spoke to the people of South Africa, who were living under the rigid structure of the apartheid regime, and as a result of this music, the anti-apartheid movement sprang into action. Rodriguez was never aware of this fame in any way. He never visiting South Africa, and no one witnessed who he was. Therefore, the people of South Africa were following the words of a man who they didn’t even know or recognize. They didn’t know where he was from, whether he was even South African to begin with, and even whether Rodriguez was his real name. After all, on Rodriguez’s best-selling record there, Cold Fact, there were multiple names for the same man on it.

A documentary, Searching for Sugarman, is about finding the man behind this iconic record. Years after the record was released, rumors spread in South Africa that Rodriguez had committed suicide and was dead. However, decades later, the detective in this documentary who was responsible for finding out about the case behind Rodriguez, why he died, and who he was as a person, found out that Rodriguez was actually alive all along. He meets Rodriguez in person, bought him to South Africa, and got him acquainted with the fame that he never experienced decades ago when Cold Fact was first released.

From a social studies perspective, this documentary primarily dealt with diffusion. The album Cold Fact was first brought to South Africa through relocation diffusion, for someone brought the album in the United States and brought it over. The album spread all over South Africa through contagious diffusion. Also, there was stimulus diffusion, for the album sparked the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. The album about Detroit’s turmoil made South Africans question their own domestic turmoil and oppression.

In my opinion, this was an extremely captivating documentary. It’s amazing how an album that can’t sell at all in the United States becomes a sensation in South Africa of all places. I wonder who decided to bring this album to South Africa, and how it became such a huge sensation there. Also, it’s fascinating how Rodriguez was never aware of any of this fame for all of these decades. Where did all the money he made off this record go? Also, where did the rumor that Rodriguez died even originate from? There is still many unanswered questions in order to bring total closure to this story, but this was an incredible story nonetheless. Everything about it had to do with human geography, and the suspense makes it enjoyable to all audiences, not just geography and history lovers.


Photo Credit: Originally posted by DashBOT on Wikipedia 

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Maisha Savani

About the Author ()

Hello, my name is Maisha. As an Indian- American, I'm someone who's too Indian to be an American and too American to be Indian. Therefore, in many ways, I'm someone who never really has a home. However, on another note, I'm someone who will ALWAYS find time for TV, and Hollywood and Bollywood movies. Always. Hence, my posts deal with these ideas- cultures clashing, my family, and my love for television.

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  1. John R says:

    I also enjoyed the film but after researching, found out that there were additional countries that loved his music. In Australia his music was very popular and in fact he made appearances there years before the South Africans ‘discovered’ him. Also, I read a book by Paul C Williams called Soldier Blue about a Rhodesian who fought in the bush war during the seventies. During leaves, they would relax with friends listening to Rodriquez’s music. SA wasn’t the only country where his recordings were popular. Still a great movie though.

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