Searching for Sugar Man is a documentary that won the 2012 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. It follows Sixto Rodriguez (more commonly known as simply Rodriguez), a Detroit Folk Rock Singer-Songwriter who was so good that he got a record contract while he was only a small time pub singer.
However, the two albums he recorded went nowhere, Rodriguez's contract was dropped, and it seemed his career was over. Unbeknownst to him, his albums became underground mega-hits on equal foot with Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley in South Africa, where his soulful songs struck a powerful chord there.
Long rumored to be dead by suicide, some South African fans decided to search out the facts about Rodriguez's fate and finally tracked down his producers. Upon learning to their astonishment that their idol was alive and well in Detroit, they finally got Rodriguez to contact them and a concert was arranged in South Africa. What followed was a comeback that was more awesome than anyone anticipated.
- Bad Boss: Clarence Avant, the president of Sussex Records (the label that originally released the two albums). He engaged in legal shenanigans with publishing rights when he first signed Rodriguez, unceremoniously dumped him from the label shortly after Coming from Reality was released, then in one of the film's most memorable scenes, angrily denied knowledge of Rodriguez's South African success and any royalty money resulting from it.
- Dead Artists Are Better: His star grew all the more in South Africa with the rumors he was dead, but when discovered alive and ready to perform again, he became the answer to what would have happened if Elvis Presley was found alive.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Despite his disappointment with his music, Rodriguez never lost his spirits and went on with his life with some peace, only to learn decades later that he was a star after all and the whole world will appreciate him.
- Easy Come, Easy Go: While Rodriguez was naturally disappointed about his albums bombing in the U.S. (and, unmentioned in the film, his later success in Australia and New Zealand was really short lived), he was able to shake it off and move on with this in mind. This of course makes the news of his superstardom in South Africa an even more pleasant surprise.
- Elvis Lives: While no one was looking for Rodriguez in the first place, if those Elvis rumors had been true, the effect would likely have been like this.
- Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Probably the most extreme example in music history.
- Reality Is Unrealistic:
- Anyone who would try to pitch the Rodriguez saga as a fictional story would get laughed out of the room.
- Some of the criticism of the South Africans for not being aware of Rodriguez's success in Australia ignores how isolated South Africa was from the rest of the world during apartheid. The film touches on it a bit, but the country's international pariah status coupled with the authoritarian leadership really did make the average South African quite unaware of what was going on elsewhere.
- Shrouded in Myth: Rodriguez' alleged suicide on stage.
- Wham Line: The first half of the docu works up to one line: "What do you mean dead? He's not dead.... Sixto is alive."
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The epilogue explains what happened to Rodriguez after the concert in Cape Town, that he came back four more times to South Africa and still lives in Detroit in the same house he lived in for 40 years.