We are willing to bet you that you will come out of the cinema after watching this film and head straight for the nearest music store, or download the music immediately from iTunes. The film, Searching for Sugar Man, is a documentary, but having already won the Special Jury Prize and the World Cinema Audience Award for Documentary at this year’s Sundance Festival, and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize, as well as winning second place at the Tribeca Festival, you know that it has to be special. And it is.
The story is true of course, but it is one which is barely believable, even when the film draws to a close. (And you will not want it to end anyway). Sixto Rodriguez, a singer songwriter of Mexican descent, lived in Detroit and sang in less than fabulous bars there, including one called The Sewer. Two record producers, Dennis Coffey and Mike Theodore, signed him to make his first album called Cold Fact in 1970 and a second album Coming from Reality followed which was produced by famed music producer, Steve Rowland. But neither of these amazing offerings became a hit in the US, despite the fact that all three of the record producers worked with many huge stars, both before and after working with Rodriguez. It fell to the South African market to buy his records, and he became a musical legend there. His songs, in the words of one person interviewed in the film, were ‘the soundtrack of our youth.’ This was the South Africa of apartheid, of oppression. His songs appeared to speak directly to the people at the heart of that struggle, and they simply loved him.
The music is sort of Bob Dylan but better. It is quite mellow, but with enough lyrical twists and turns to engage you. And in our view his music is better than Dylan in many respects, principally that you can understand what he is singing.
In the opening sequence of the film you might think that you are on the Pacific Highway in California, but this is not possible as the car is driving on the left hand side. It is only when you are told that it is Cape Town that you realise the film is starting on a different continent with staggeringly beautiful scenery. This proves to be a world away from the streets of Detroit.
There are some unanswered questions, including the destination of money earned from the sale of the records, but we think it is just as well that those areas were left unexplored, at least for the time being. The intrigue and mystery might easily have been compromised, and a great film spoiled. But the team behind it knew what they were doing.
It is the work of Director, Malik Bendjelloul. Based in Stockholm, Malik Bendjelloul has been directing documentaries for twelve years, primarily based on musicians. In 2001, Bendjelloul directed the first ever documentary about German electronic pioneers Kraftwerk. He has also made a documentary series about the history of heavy metal as well as some single documentaries, collaborating with such iconic artists as Björk, Sting, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Madonna, Mariah Carey, U2 and Kylie Minogue. Last autumn Bendjelloul directed a filmed concert with Prince.
Bendjelloul has also worked as director and creative producer for Swedish Television’s international cultural weekly show Kobra, where he made short documentaries covering a wide range of stories. Among the subjects were the First Earth Battalion – the American army division who tried to teach their soldiers to walk through walls; and a profile on Alfred Merhan, a man who has been living in Charles de Gaulle airport for 18 years and who became the inspiration for Steven Spielberg’s THE TERMINAL. Other subjects have included the controversial story of British pop band The KLF burning a million pounds, and a film exploring the rumours surrounding Paul McCartney’s death.
He had worked on Sugar Man for a long time before meeting up with the Producers Simon Chinn and John Battsek who helped complete the film. Bendejelloul said:- “In 2006, after five years making TV documentaries in Sweden, I spent six months travelling around Africa and South America looking for good stories. In Cape Town I met Stephen “Sugar” Segerman, who told me about Rodriguez. I was completely speechless – I hadn’t heard a better story in my life. This was five years ago and I have been working on this film more or less every day since then.”
The producer Simon Chinn has already won Oscars and other plaudits and you will possibly know him for his most recent films Project Nim and Man on Wire (the latter did win the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance). It became Rotten Tomatoes best-reviewed film of all time.
In 2005, Chinn established his production company, Red Box Films, to produce MAN ON WIRE (taking inspiration from Philippe Petit, who kept his ideas for future projects, including his high wire walk between the Twin Towers, in a red box under his bed) and it currently has a slate of projects – including feature documentaries, feature films and television dramas – at various stages of production and development.
We loved it, and we are struggling to tell you about it in too much detail since we really do not want to spoil it for you. It is the story of Rodriguez, an American singer, his music and his life. Maybe that is all you ought to know before you storm the doors of your nearest cinema from 27 July 2012 when it is available on general release. Then sit back and prepare to be amazed by the story of a singer songwriter who was bigger than Elvis in South Africa.
Searching for Sugar Man opens in the UK today 27 July 2012
Photo © StudioCanal
Now that the Olympic football has started at Hampden, First Minister Alex Salmond, said:
“Olympic football at Hampden promises to be something pretty special and I’m very excited about being there to see it for myself.
“Many, many Scots have been working incredibly hard for months behind the scenes to make the Olympics get off to a safe and successful start here and I’m grateful to them all.
“The tie between the USA, the current women’s Olympic champions, and France will focus the eyes of the world on Scotland and I know our home crowd will do them – and us – proud.
“We have made tickets available to thousands of children and I hope thousands of families are going to make the most of the school holidays – not to mention the sunshine – by taking part in this once-in-a-generation experience.
“Scotland is playing host to some of the very first Olympic events and I can think of no luckier place to be than in the Hampden stand. All the very best to all those taking part!”
Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, visited the Glasgow Media Access Centre (GMAC), where young people from targeted areas of the city are benefiting from Mad About Movies – a programme of free activities designed to boost their knowledge and understanding of filmmaking.
The centre has been awarded £39,205 in Cashback for Communities funding through Creative Scotland.
The funding is supporting GMAC’s Mad About Movies programme which includes regular movie clubs and a filmmaking summer school. A training programme, also delivered through the project, will give teachers and youth workers the knowledge and skills to set up film projects for young people in their own communities.
Ms Hyslop went to an acting workshop at GMAC today, where Scottish actor Atta Yaqub, star of ‘Ae fond kiss’, was talking to the young people involved in the Mad About Movies project about his own skills and experience.
“Through Cashback for Communities, the Scottish Government has reinvested more than £46 million recovered through the Proceeds of Crime Act, back into communities to benefit Scotland’s young people.
“In particular, the creative strand of Cashback is helping thousands of young Scots to access life-changing opportunities to boost their skills, improve their employability and reach their full potential through engagement with creativity and the arts.
“Today I was proud to meet some of the young people whose lives are being impacted by this important work. The Mad About Movies project is an excellent example of how Cashback funding is making a real difference to their enthusiasm, confidence, outlook and skill base.”
Iain Munro, Director of Creative Development at Creative Scotland, said:
“During the Year of Creative Scotland 2012, the creative strand of the CashBack programme will allow over 8,000 young people across the country to create a film, choreograph or perform in a dance production or record their own piece of music.
“Taking part in creative activities can make a real difference to the lives of our children and young people. It provides an opportunity for young people to shine and express themselves and learn how work as part of a group. We look forward to the continued success of this life-changing programme for years to come.”
Beth Armstrong from GMAC, said: “GMAC has a proud 30 year history of championing diversity and equality within the Scottish film industry. We are delighted to be part of Cashback for Communities which allows us to offer this amazing programme of free film activities for young people from all over Glasgow. If you’re 10 – 19 and Mad About Movies then get in touch and get involved”!
Exciting plans to electrify the Glasgow Queen Street to Edinburgh Waverley train route – which would cut journey times by 10 minutes – have been unveiled by The Scottish Government.
Local MSP Sandra White welcomed Transport Minister Keith Brown’s announcement of a £650 million upgrade which will deliver longer, electric trains equipped with wi-fi. Passenger capacity will be increased thanks to the investment and the reliability of train services will be improved.
Additionally, a significant upgrade to Queen Street Station has been announced which will see the station connected to Buchanan Galleries.
Ms White said:-”These are exciting plans that will see journey times cut, free wi-fi by 2013 and higher capacity as a result of longer trains. People using the Glasgow to Edinburgh line will benefit from these enhancements which are a huge boost for both cities. Connecting Queen Street station to Buchanan Galleries will make it quicker and easier for people to get access to the shops and station. Not only that, the Scottish Government’s plan will benefit Scotland’s economy by supporting additional jobs and investment.”
Jamie Hepburn, SNP MSP for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth, welcomed Mr Brown’s announcement that the first stage of improvements will be delivered in time for the Commonwealth Games with electrification of rail services to Cumbernauld.
Mr Hepburn said:-”It is fantastic the SNP Government has committed to delivering the electrification of the rail services to Cumbernauld in time for the Commonwealth Games.
“This means more reliable, greener and faster trains for my constituents and those travelling to Cumbernauld.
“The SNP is committed to delivering the most modern and reliable train services for Scotland and this latest announcement follows a £5 billion funding and investment package of measures aimed at improving the quality of that service.
“We are delivering all this at a time when Scotland’s budget is being cut by a third – which demontrates the commitment of The Scottish Government to investing in rail services.”