A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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."
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?
- On DVD or streaming: January 22, 2013
- Cast: Rodriguez
- Director: Malik Bendjelloul
- Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 86 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: brief strong language and some drug references
- Awards/Honors: Academy Award
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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