Pluto uncovers what’s hidden. In the case of Detroit singer-songwriter Sixto Rodriguez, the subject of the documentary “Searching for Sugar Man,” Pluto took his time.
Directed by Swedish filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul, the Sundance award-winning movie is genuinely stranger than fiction. In 1970 the artist – known simply as Rodriguez – was expected to be a shoo-in for musical stardom. His two albums, much to the shock of his producers, failed to make a dent in the U.S.
South Africa, however, was a different story. Somehow Rodriguez’s first album “Cold Fact” had managed to make its way to that remote part of the world. There it went the equivalent of viral through massive bootlegging. The Mexican-American inner-city poet – one of his more popular songs was called “Sugar Man” – became the hero of young white anti-apartheid activists seeking social and economic equality. But who, many wondered, was this guy?
A music enthusiast and an investigative reporter took it upon themselves to find out, and they finally hit pay dirt when Rodriguez’s daughter Eve confirmed her father’s identity.
The stunning resurrection of Rodriguez and his music from obscurity culminates in the artist’s first tour of South Africa in 1998. There he told the ecstatic crowds, “Thanks for keeping me alive.” Beyond that, the modest Rodriguez, embracing Pluto’s affinity for secrecy, never quite reveals his own myth.
Rating: ♇ (Pluto)