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
The 19th French Film Festival presents an unparalleled selection of le cinéma français in leading cinemas around the country, including Glasgow GFT. There are a wealth of genres to suit all tastes and impressive performances from an array of established stellar names and emerging talents.
Daniel Auteuil will attend the UK Premiere of The Well Digger’s Daughter. Shot in perpetual sunshine and superbly scored by Alexandre Desplat (The King’s Speech), Auteuil returns to the familiar and beloved territory of Marcel Pagnol’s work, this time as director but also playing beautifully the role of the peasant father on screen a role taken in the 1940 original by Raimu. Kad Merad takes the part once played by Fernandel. Daniel Armogathe, the president of the Marseille Cinematheque will focus on adapting the work of Marcel Pagnol to the cinema.
Jean-Pierre Améris is on the guest list to support the preview opening gala screenings of Romantics Anonymous, an exquisite bitter-sweet confection starring Isabelle Carré and Benoît Poelvoorde and to be released shortly by Picturehouse Entertainment (from 2 December).
Stirring up a flurry of media attention in France and perfectly timed in the current political climate, writer-director Xavier Durringer’s farce The Conquest chronicles President Nicolas Sarkozy’s rise to power. The 10th presidential election of France is set to take place early next year and already the pace is hotting up. The themes of power and politics are also tackled in Alain Cavalier’s latest film Pater in which he stars alongside Vincent Lindon filming themselves as they pretend to be businessmen-politicians campaigning for office.
André Téchiné is back with Unforgivable, a luminous and atmospheric adaptation of Philippe Djian’s novel while Jacques Perrin plunges us deep into the sublime and mysterious world of the sea, signing another breathtaking documentary with Oceans.
Angelina Maccarone’s engaging documentary The Look (released by Park Circus) places the spotlight on Charlotte Rampling, in a free-wheeling tête-à-tête offering a fascinating portrait of the actress whose career spans half a century. Audiences will also have a chance to see All the Suns, with Stefano Accorsi and Anouk Aimée, Philippe Claudel’s second feature after his hugely acclaimed I’ve Loved You So Long.
The closing weekend will see 100th anniversary screenings of the second instalment in Louis Feuillade’s Fantômas silent serial, Juvé contre Fantômas accompanied by a live electronic score performed by two cult Parisian dee-jays Jean-Yves Leloup and Éric Pajot aka Radiomentale.
In between will be a stunning array of French language productions from France, Quebec, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Belgium. Other keenly anticipated titles include Service Entrance starring Fabrice Luchini, Sandrine Kiberlain and Carmen Maura and a huge box office hit in France. Two classics figure among the fare: Love Eternal by Jean Delannoy and scripted by Jean Cocteau and Maurice Tourneur’s Justin de Marseille, part of a focus on Glasgow-Marseille Twinning.
Pride of place is being given to Christophe Honoré who will accompany his latest venture Beloved which was the closing choice for this year’s Cannes Film Festival and features mother and daughter Catherine Deneuve and Chiara Mastroianni. The Brittany-born director will headline a special focus on the region as well as a retrospective of his work including Close to Leo and Love Songs. A tribute is being held to Claude Chabrol who favoured Brittany for many of his films.
Following the festival’s recent celebrations of Jacques Tati and, last year, Pierre Etaix, we salute in their presence a Belgian burlesque duo in the same tradition Fiona Gordon and Dominique Abel and their Cannes entry The Fairy (Verve Pictures). Another Belgian Bouli Lanners hopes to put in an appearance for his much acclaimed third film as a director The Giants, a fresh coming of age tale. Lebanese-born director Danielle Arbid returns to the festival with her smouldering and intense Beirut Hotel.
Two animation hits A Cat in Paris and Titeuf (in stunning 3D and 2D versions) by Swiss-born animator Zep will figure alongside a selection of documentaries, among them Think Global, Act Rural by Coline Serreau and from Switzerland’s Fernand Melgar the heart-rending Special Flight. The shorts selection is headed by the acclaimed Tremblay-en-France featuring Scots actor Jamie Sives in an unusual role. Thousands of pupils in Scotland will watch two especially selected films with their teachers: A Cat in Paris and Romain Goupil’s Hands Up as part of the Learning programme.
Festival director Richard Mowe said: “We feel it is going to be a vintage year for the French Film Festival UK which augurs well for 2012 when we will celebrate two decades of bringing the crême de la crême of French-language cinema to these shores.”
The FFF UK will screen in London Ciné Lumière, Edinburgh Filmhouse, Glasgow GFT, Manchester Cornerhouse, Warwick Arts Centre, Aberdeen Belmont Picturehouse and Union Square Cineworld, Dundee DCA, Inverness Eden Court, Stirling Macrobert Centre, Dumfries Robert Burns Centre and for the first time Bo’ness (at the recently restored Hippodrome).
Here is the programme:-