The New Zealand Film Festival comes to Auckland on July 19th and The 13th Floor will keep you updated on a few of the choice films on offer throughout the 17-day festival. I was fortunate to view one of the films at a preview screening and, so here’s a review to get the ball rolling on this year’s Film Festival season.
Every year, the NZFF manages to come up with a good range or music-related films, and this year is no exception. Searching For Sugar Man is a documentary about Sixto Rodriguez, a Mexican-American musician who was based in Detroit when he released two albums in the early 1970s. Those two albums died a quick death and Rodriguez abandoned his musical aspirations and went back to being a labourer in Detroit.
Despite being ignored in his own country, Rodriguez became a hugely significant musical icon in South Africa where his songs about social protest and class struggle caused him to achieve a level of popularity equal to Bob Dylan, Bob Marley or any other Bobs you can think of. Bootleg copies of Rodriguez’ album sold like crazy, but no one knew anything about him. Eventually rumours began circulating about his spectacular suicide…that he either shot himself or set himself on fire while on stage, performing.
Eventually, a few die-hard South African fans made up their minds that they would find out the truth about their musical hero. That’s where much of this film takes place…following the clues from South Africa to Detroit and discovering the real story behind Rodriguez.
Many of you may already know a bit about Rodriguez and may think they don’t need to see the film. After all, along with South Africa, the only other country to appreciate the man’s music was Australia. But the film makes introduce us to a gaggle of interesting folks along the way…the owner of Rodriguez’ record company, his producer, his co-workers, members of his family and his fans in South Africa all turn out to be as fascinating as Sixto himself. Plus, there’s plenty of the man’s music incorporated into the film.
Speaking of Bob Marley…he is the subject of another of the festival’s musical documentaries, as is Neil Young, Chilean folk singer Violeta Parra, LCD Soundsystem and Kate McGarrigle, so there is plenty on offer for music lovers at the festival.
If you want to hear more of Rodriguez’ music, I’ll be featuring him on Radio New Zealand National this Wednesday (July 18th) just after 11am.
Click here to listen to Crucify Your Mind from Rodriguez’ 1970 album Cold Fact: