“Searching for Sugar Man” in Detroit and South Africa

“Searching for Sugar Man” in Detroit and South Africa

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RodriguezA singer of “Bob Dylanesque” songs, but with a smoother voice.

A music celebrity greater than the Rolling Stones or Elvis Presley.

Who is this guy?

And what the hell was he doing in Detroit and South Africa?

Searching for Sugar Man, an amazing feature-length documentary that won two awards at last Surgar Man Movie Posteryear’s Sundance Film Festival and the 2013 Academy Award for Best Documentary, answers those questions.

Sixto Rodriguez was literally “discovered” playing in “The Sewer,” a bar in a not-so-tony part of Detroit in 1968.

Although he should have become a “rock star” in the U.S., his albums were commercial flops, and only a handful of Americans knew of his existence.

But in South Africa—a country he’d never visited—he became a music legend.

His songs inspired white South Africans to battle Apartheid. The government banned his music and physically damaged tracks on vinyl LPs so his songs couldn’t be played.

But even in that country, little was known about him.

That is, until someone decided to track him down.

Searching for Sugar Man begins with a Cape Town record store owner driving along a coastal highway in South Africa. The scene switches back and forth between that country, Detroit and Southern California, as the movie recounts the journalistic journey to trace Rodriguez’s history and, with luck, to find the man himself.

It’s a visually stunning film, and a masterpiece of documentary filmmaking.

So how did I find out about Searching for Sugar Man? Much in the same way that Rodriguez himself was discovered: By word of mouth and dumb luck.

During a hike last week I was discussing my latest adventure: Learning to produce TV programs. And during the hike I shot some video clips using my iPhone.

One of the hikers told me about a movie that she thought had been filmed using an iPhone. Its name: Searching for Sugar Man.

I was intrigued by the notion of using an iPhone to create a “real deal” documentary, and guessed that a trailer for Searching for Sugar Man might be on YouTube. I guessed right.

But I didn’t expect to find that the full movie was available for viewing free via the “On Demand” service of my cable TV company. I watched it, totally mesmerized for 90 minutes.

If you’re a 1960’s music aficionado, or even if, like me, your not, but are always game to watch a great film, then you need to see Searching for Sugar Man. After viewing this, you’ll agree.

Remember that hearing that Searching for Sugar Man was filmed with an iPhone is what peaked my interest in watching it? To my eye, most of the scenes must have been shot with a professional movie camera. But others certainly could have been captured with an iPhone.

Several reports—such as this one from Mashable—say that when the director ran out of money to buy 8mm film to finish the movie, he turned to the $1.99 iPhone “8mm Vintage Camera” app to shoot the final “footage” that he needed.

Among other features, the app lets you create a movie that has the feel of one filmed in the 1920’s, ‘60’s, or ‘70’s. 8mm Vintage Camera Screenshot

And in a “It’s A Small World” fashion, that brings us back to what brought Searching for Sugar Man to my attention: Hiking. And here, as your “double-feature” bonus, is a 1920’s-style flick I created with the 8mm Vintage Camera app on my old iPhone 3GS during a group hike near Chimney Rock in the Point Reyes National Seashore north of San Francisco.

(Purchasing Searching for Sugar Man from Amazon.com or the 8mm Vintage Camera app from the iTunes App Store through links on this page helps Tales Told From The Road continue to bring you a wide range of travel-related stories.)

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2 Replies to ““Searching for Sugar Man” in Detroit and South Africa”

  1. Hi Dick — your site is great. I am thrilled, sounds like you enjoyed ‘Sugarman’ as much as we did. Thanks for the inspiring hiking talks and blog site. Hope to see you in the fall, Linda.

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