A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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
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.
Violence & Scariness
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.
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Occasional swearing and name-calling, including "faggot" and "hooker" in lyrics, plus "s--t," "ass," and "f--k" in conversation.
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Products & Purchases
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.
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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." To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.