Searching for Sugar Man

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Searching for Sugar Man Movie Poster Image
Intriguing docu about missing musician; some language, pot.
  • PG-13
  • 2013
  • 86 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Never give up might be the most important message here, even if it takes years to achieve something. Rodriguez, the musician at the center of this doc, finally finds success, decades after releasing the album that was supposed to make him famous. It did, kind of, but in a most unlikely way, finally finding its audience on the far side of the world. While the artist toiled away taking menial jobs, he was completely unaware that he had become a household name in South Africa.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Rodriguez is a character study in humility. Having accepted that his musical career would never take off, he quietly raised a family, taking odd jobs and menial labor to get by. Years later, when he finally finds fame in far off South Africa, he refuses to take the trappings of success for granted, and when his tour is complete, he happily returns to his quiet life in the U.S. He's happy with success, but he doesn't let it get to his head.


Old news footage of demonstrations in which people clash with the police. Cops push, beat, and even shoot protestors. Some shots of dead bodies. A few people in interviews describe stories of a musician killing himself onstage in quite graphic detail.


Occasional swearing and name-calling, including "faggot" and "hooker" in lyrics, plus "s--t," "ass," and "f--k" in conversation.


The film includes numerous snippets of Rodriguez's album Cold Fact, and the entire focus is on the life and career of this 1970s artist who disappeared before his work could catch on.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some general references to drugs, mainly pot use.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Searching for Sugar Man is an acclaimed documentary with some references to drug use and some news footage of police and protester violence during apartheid. Expect strong, but brief swearing, specifically in lyrics, including "faggot," "f--k," and "hooker."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAllen Wang June 2, 2013

Sugar Man Reviews of The Film

I Think "Sugar Man" is A Good Movie But Lots of Language And So, I Want P
arents And Kids Not To Learn These Languages From This Movie "Sugar Ma... Continue reading

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What's the story?

On the cusp of greatness, after recording what some music-industry insiders call one of the best albums ever, 1970's artist Rodriguez finds himself with a record that's dead on arrival. Soon after, he disappears, amid whispers that he killed himself. Against all odds, his music manages to wend its way to South Africa, where it becomes a hit. But where is Rodriguez and what happened to him? This documentary sets out to solve the mystery.

Is it any good?

This captivating film is such a wild story that it has to be true; nobody would take it seriously if it were fiction. Director Malik Bendjelloul tells the tale with quiet precision, and before you can figure out who it's about and why we should care about a musician who never caught on, you're hooked. It helps that the music is soulful and piercing -- as several of the music industry executives say, it's hard to figure out why Rodriguez's albums flopped. (Therein lies a major hook for the movie, though.) It's also easy to see how his songs of quiet strength and gentle rebellion caught on in South Africa during the apartheid years.

But that's just the foundation of this film. The real story is how a dogged music journalist tried to find out what happened to the mysterious Rodriguez, a man who had seemingly dropped off the planet. What happens next is heartwarming and uplifting, as we learn happens to someone who discovers very late in life that he's not the failure he had thought he was.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the filmmakers choice to make a movie about Rodriguez. What makes his story compelling? Where would you look for a good story to tell in film or writing?

  • How did Rodriguez react to learning about his unexpected fame? How do you think you would react?

  • What do you think about Rodriguez's music? Why didn't his career take off? Why did it catch on in South Africa?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love true stories and musicians

Themes & Topics

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