Searching for Sugar Man is about a man who was forgotten by an entire generation. Hell, it's about a man that was never even known by an entire generation, yet wrote some of the most influential songs of his time. In the sensational documentary by Malik Bendjelloul, the story of this man is told, a man who's dignified nature has allowed for history's selective lens to pass over him.
Sixto Rodriguez was born to Mexican immigrants in Detroit in 1942. Despite two critically praised albums released under Sussex Records in the early ‘70s, Rodriguez failed to achieve any sort of fan base in the nation, with label founder Clarence Avant cynically guessing he sold about 6 records in total. Due to this lack of success, Rodriguez was dropped soon after the release of his second album Coming from Reality. The documentary goes on to tell one of the most brilliantly but unlikely stories I've ever heard, and one that equally succeeds in summoning the emotions of an audience that has no initial investment in the story at all.
After assuming that his opportunities as a music man had dissipated, Rodriguez humbly acted upon the virtues that his parents had instilled in him as a child and went back to the manual construction labor he had been doing for numerous years. But Rodriguez didn't complain about it - he didn't even realize there was something to complain about. Whether he made it as an artist or not he always knew he'd still find those long workdays the most fulfilling days of his life because he could thus support his three daughters.
However, unbeknownst to Rodriguez or any of his affiliates, a much different scenario was being played out in one of the most inconceivable of countries: South Africa. As the story goes, Cold Fact, Rodriguez's first record, arrived in South Africa soon after its release and immediately struck a chord with the disheartened and disenfranchised generation of the nation's Apartheid victims. Rodriguez's music gained a strong following, with eventual sales of his albums going to over 500,000. His music inspired a generation and became an influential work of art that spurred on the tour de force of triumphing over segregation in South Africa. It is, truthfully, one of the most heart-wrenching displays of historic footage I have ever seen put to film.
This documentary expertly transitions back and forth between events within America and events in South Africa. It shows emotionally charged interviews filled with analogies from a diverse assortment of people close to Rodriguez, and whose accounts show the effect on his music and principles. This movie knows exactly what it wants to show but has the integrity to not flaunt it in our faces.
Searching for Sugar Man doesn't just tell a story, it creates one. The great strength of this film is that it takes facts and anecdotes that would be meaningless apart and brings them together in a way that tells a story of true humility and perseverance. This film is about people, it's about their stories, and it's about their thirst for knowledge, for finding answers. It's not about Rodriguez so much as it's about what he inspired, what he did, and what he refrained from doing. This film displays the importance of giving credit where it is due, and even if Rodriguez doesn't mind being forgotten, it's important for the rest of us to know he'll be remembered as a hero.
By: Spencer Semianiw
By: Miranda Babbitt
I can safely say that 67 per cent of people have Googled themselves. I can also safely say that 83 per cent of statistics are made up. Tough to believe what we find on the Internet, isn’t it?
Either way, Googling our own names remains an inevitable Internet journey we all travel through at one point or another. And even though it seems to be a fad most of us went through when our Neopets were still our big responsibility, the allure of discovering who you are in the eyes of the collective world hasn’t disappeared. Once we grow a little bit older, when angst is our beloved middle name and voice cracks appear in the most socially convenient of times, our lives become even more centred around the Internet. You know, when we’re finding ourselves. We spend our days looking deep inside our souls and pulling out the unexplored wisdom that accompanies maniacally trolling our newly formed YouTube account.
Googling your own name is almost akin to finding someone else’s diary. It’s you, but from an objective view of the world. You see yourself as simply a name, a profile, and it suddenly clicks how small you are. There is a certain intrigue as to who you will find. Suddenly, you’re no longer John Smith, but John Smith, track team member in Grade 6 and the proud owner of the most thumbed up comment on Rihanna’s “Love the Way You Lie” music video.
Does this imply we are a vain society? All eager to snatch a little pocket of fame, even if that entails a Blogger profile abandoned years ago? No; it’s human curiosity. We want to see ourselves as others do. It’s smart. We want to see ourselves as our potential employers will. It’s hilarious. We want to see how many alleged criminals share our names on the FBI wanted list. It’s natural.
Yet it’s also natural for people other than your procrastinating ego to type your name into the mother of all information known as Google. It’s this very fact we have to be cautious of, and is precisely the reason I just signed up for a Google Alert with my name on it. Every time my name is searched, I will be notified. And that’s either a whole new level of vanity or absurd paranoia, but I suggest you do the same, fellow cyberspace civilians.
Despite the creepers lurking behind the screens around the world (and apparently anyone who has looked through someone else’s photos on Facebook qualifies for the endearing term “creeper”), the Internet is a place of endless discovery, perhaps even nostalgia. A few months ago, I stumbled across my old Neopets account, which reminded/guilt-tripped me about the fact that I had left this virtual little pet without food for 3627 days. No wonder eight-year-old me was so addicted, seeing this creature’s eyes tearing up, begging me to come back and play. This was a game of serious responsibility!
A friend of mine entered his name into Google only to find a website which looked to be dedicated to him, as if he came across a personal shrine created by his oh-so-devout fans commending his piano expertise. It was entitled The Piano Sensation, but not targeted towards my buddy over here. Just another guy who made a website for himself praising his piano skills (if that’s not sad, I don’t know what is).
I, for one, share my name with what seems to be hundreds of middle-aged women in Ohio. A fascinating lurk, I know. Others have such unique names that they are really the only ones who come up – the one and only in a vast world of Internet fame.
It remains a source of intrigue for everyone. Some are left feeling sufficiently creeped out after finding their name inserted into a foreign blog entry, others feel a little ashamed that they only appear once for participating in their school’s annual bake sale, and most feel a little bit smaller than before.
The power of Google has literally overtaken the world. We may think of the internet as being an invincible creature, holding our secrets as its own, laughing with us while we watch the panda sneezing for the thirtieth time, patting our back while we read a surprisingly tear-jerking chain email (grandparents always have a knack for those). But in reality (please stop reading if you’re morbidly afraid of the Internet already) it’s as if Google is glaring at us at all times. Really? It rolls its eyes. You’re checking how to spell “definitely” for the third time today? Do you honestly think the baby with the bellowing laugh is this funny?
I’ve essentially come to view the Internet as a cynical, bitter creature before me, who probably views me as a sporadic, ADD-prone maniac. But hey, at the end of the day, we are their masters. The Internet is our very own tool for success. It doesn’t have a brain.
…at least for now.