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'Searching for Sugar Man' Director Malik Bendjelloul Dead at 36

Filmmaker commits suicide after struggles with depression, says brother

May 14, 2014 12:45 PM ET
Malik Bendjelloul
Malik Bendjelloul
Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

Swedish filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul – the director of the Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man – has died, the Associated Press reports. He was 36.

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Bendjelloul's brother, Johar, said Malik had committed suicide. Police would not comment on the cause of death but said there was no foul play in his death. Johar said Malik had struggled with depression for a short period. "Life is not always simple," he said.

Prior to making the documentary – which focused on the search for missing Mexican-American folk singer Sixto Rodriguez – Bendjelloul was a child actor on the Swedish TV series Ebba Och Didrik and worked as a reporter for broadcaster SVT. Rodriguez was long rumored to have committed suicide and, unbeknowst to him, had become a cult legend in South Africa.

After Bendjelloul quit his job as a reporter to travel the world, he discovered Rodriguez's story on one of his trips and spent more than four years completing the documentary. After its release and 2013 Oscar win for Best Documentary Feature, Rodriguez experienced a commercial renaissance in the U.S., playing major venues on tour. Rodriguez's manager told The New York Times that the singer would not be making a comment on Bendjelloul's passing.

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"He had found this amazing story and was completely determined to do it justice," Sugar Man producer Simon Chinn told AP. "The fact that no one else believed in it didn't seem to deter him, he just kind of pursued it with incredible passion and tenacity that I hadn't really ever seen before in a filmmaker."

One of the film's stars, Cape Town record store owner Stephen Segerman, said he was having a hard time accepting the news of Bendjelloul's death, calling him a "really, really lovely, charming human being" who seemed happy. "He was like Tintin," Segerman said. 

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