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Engrossing ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ explores legacy of Sixto Rodriguez

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Searching for Sugar Man
Three stars
Directed by Malik Bendjelloul
Rated PG-13. Opens Friday

The story of ’60s singer-songwriter Sixto Rodriguez is straight out of the “truth is stranger than fiction” file, which is why Malik Bendjelloul’s documentary Searching for Sugar Man is engrossing even when it’s a little unfocused. Detroit native Rodriguez put out two low-selling albums in the early ’70s before fading into obscurity in the U.S., but in South Africa he became an icon on the level of Bob Dylan, with his songs serving as the soundtrack for anti-apartheid activists. Bendjelloul chronicles the efforts of South African music fans to track down Rodriguez (who for years was rumored to be dead), followed by the musician’s triumphant pilgrimage to meet and perform for his admirers. Bendjelloul keeps certain facts irritatingly (and unnecessarily) shrouded in mystery for a large part of the movie, and some of his stylistic quirks are a little distracting. But the story itself shines through at every moment, a rare confluence of political and musical triumphs that has a happy ending for all involved.

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Josh Bell

Josh Bell is the film editor for Las Vegas Weekly, where he's been writing movie and TV reviews since 2002. ...

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