Movies were made for stories like that of the documentary Searching for Sugarman. Even though it is nominated for Best Documentary of 2012 (which I think it deserves to win), I believe it deserves to win Best Picture. The film is so compelling and draws you in within the first scene – even more incredible that it is a true story.
Without the need of a spoiler alert, Searching for Sugarman is a story of a musician who, with a sound similar to Bob Dylan, released two albums in the 1970s only to see them never reach success in the United States. Living in Detroit, Michigan, Sixto Rodriguez, otherwise known as Sugarman, continued with his life as a day laborer making minimum wage and forgoing his quest for musical stardom. Unbeknownst to him, his albums somehow made their way to South Africa and were a commercial success.
Maybe it was because his music spoke to a nation grappling with the atrocities of the apartheid or maybe it was because Rodriguez was that good and South Africans appreciated his talent. Whatever it was, in South Africa Rodriguez became more popular that the Beatles, the Rolling Stones or Elvis. If only Rodriguez had known all these years that passed that he had a huge, loyal fan base on the other side of the world. Before the era of the internet when a mysterious story like this would have been solved by the click of a mouse, Rodriguez lived his life without ever being acknowledged for his musical genius and South Africans assumed Rodriguez committed suicide.
The soundtrack of the documentary is all original Rodriguez songs and provides a beautiful backdrop into this heartfelt story of hope, humility, love and destiny. I saw it three times with Mr. ShuGar and we both think it deserves to win Best Picture of 2012.
On a more personal note, I loved this film because it told the story of a musical talent that just happens to be Mexican-American. Finally, something from the movie industry that doesn’t cast Mexicans as maids, illegal immigrants, gang bangers or incapable of speaking English without a Spanish accent. It was so refreshing to see a story about a Mexican-American being depicted as a true American talent — his ethnicity was not an issue. Although we are proud of our ethnicity and our Mexican heritage, we also are proud to be part of this country and to just be treated like everyone else. But Rodriguez wasn’t just like anyone else – he is now a true American icon and I am proud to see that his music is finally getting the world attention it has long deserved.