Director Malik Bendjelloul intended to make a 10-minute segment about Rodriguez, an unlikely Seventies musical icon, for Swedish television. Instead, he spent four years of his life making Searching for Sugar Man, an acclaimed new documentary about the forgotten star whose protest music circulated widely throughout South Africa – eventually inspiring the anti-apartheid protest movement – but who remained entirely unaware of his popularity.
“It’s an opportunity to reach a wider audience,” Rodriguez says of the film, which brings new attention to his music in the U.S. “I wrote these pieces, under 30 songs, and they have gotten some longevity that I didn’t think was going to happen at all. I thought I’d sell some records and play bigger rooms, but now it’s global.”
In this exclusive clip from the film, music journalist Craig Bartholomew-Strydom details how he first grew interested in tracking down the identity of the mysterious Rodriguez. At the time, “there were no concrete hard facts about the artist known as Rodriguez”; the musician was rumored to be dead.
“I came across this rerelease of Coming From Reality,” Bartholomew-Strydom recalls. “The liner notes said, ‘There are no concrete hard facts about the artist known as Rodriguez. Any musicologist-detectives out there?’ was the question, and I think that, to me, was like an invitation.”
Searching for Sugar Man opens in New York and Los Angeles on July 27th. The soundtrack is available now.