In the late ’60s, two celebrated producers, who were struck by his soulful melodies and prophetic lyrics, discovered a musician in a Detroit bar—an artist who reminded them of a Chicano Bob Dylan, perhaps even greater. They had worked with the likes of Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, but they believed the album they subsequently produced with Rodriguez—Cold Fact—was the masterpiece of their producing careers. In fact, the album bombed and the singer disappeared into obscurity amid rumors of a gruesome on-stage suicide.
But a bootleg recording of Cold Fact somehow found its way into apartheid South Africa and, over the next two decades, it became a phenomenon. Two South African fans then set out to find out what really happened to their hero. Their investigation led them to a story more extraordinary than any of the existing myths about the artist known as Rodriguez. First-time director Malik Bendjelloul’s documentary Searching for Sugar Man is a film about hope, inspiration and the resonating power of music.