“Searching for Sugar Man,” Story of Musician Sixto Rodriguez, Wins Oscar for Best Documentary

Sixto Rodriguez: The Powerful Music of a Deeply Good Man

Searching for Sugar Man found an Oscar on Sunday night. The film, which traces the strange, almost unbelievable tale of Detroit folk musician Sixto Rodriguez from obscurity to international success, largely without his knowing, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature Film at Sunday’s 85th Academy Awards. Rodriguez, 70, was not at the ceremony, “because he didn’t want to take any of the credit himself,” producer Simon Chinn explained from the Oscar stage while accepting the award. “And that just about says everything about that man and his story that you want to know.”

Searching for Sugar Man is a 2012 Swedish/British documentary directed by Malik Bendjelloul, which follows the efforts of two Cape Town fans, Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman and Craig Bartholomew Strydom, to find out whether the rumored death of Rodriguez was true, and, if not, to discover what had become of him. Previously, the film won the Special Jury Prize and the Audience Award for Best International Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, the Audience Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival, the Audience Award at the Durban International Film Festival and the Audience Award at the Melbourne Film Festival. Malik Bendjelloul won the 2013 Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Achievement in Documentary for Searching for Sugar Man.

The film tells the magical story of a gifted singer-songwriter from Detroit, who was an enigmatic mystery. His face half-hidden by long flowing hair and dark glasses, he sang in smoke-filled folk music bars, often with his back turned to the audience. His name was Sixto Rodriguez. In the late 1960’s, Rodriguez was so good that with neither fame nor a large fan base, he signed a two-album contract with Sussex and A&R Records. The first album, Cold Fact, got a rare four-star review from Billboard Magazine. However, neither it nor his second album, Coming From Reality, sold well, the contract was dropped and the story seemed to end there.

Nothing else was heard from Sixto Rodriguez. But several years later, his albums traveled half-way around the world, to Cape Town, South Africa, where bootleg copies passed from hand to hand and his songs became the storied anthems of the anti-apartheid movement. When an indie record store owner named Stephen Segerman released them commercially, they took off, the first selling 500,000 copies, which in that nation was comparable to the Beatles or Elvis Presley.

Searching for Sugar Man: The Official UK Trailer

Sixto Rodriguez: The Rock Icon Who Didn’t Know It

Sixty Minutes Overtime: Sixto Rodriguez

Sixto Rodriguez Performs “Crucify Your Mind” (David Letterman)

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Sixto Rodriguez: The Powerful Music of a Deeply Good Man

Sixto Rodriguez: The Powerful Music of a Deeply Good Man

Searching for Sugar Man is the magical story of a gifted singer-songwriter from Detroit, who was an enigmatic mystery. His face half-hidden by long flowing hair and dark glasses, he sang in smoke-filled folk music bars, often with his back turned to the audience. His name was Sixto Rodriguez.

In the late 1960’s, Rodriguez was so good that with neither fame nor a large fan base, he signed a two-album contract with Sussex and A&R Records. The first album, Cold Fact, got a rare four-star review from Billboard Magazine. However, neither it nor his second album, Coming From Reality, sold well, the contract was dropped and the story seemed to end there.

Nothing else was heard from Sixto Rodriguez. But several years later, his albums traveled half-way around the world, to Cape Town, South Africa, where bootleg copies passed from hand to hand and his songs became the storied anthems of the anti-apartheid movement. When an indie record store owner named Stephen Segerman released them commercially, they took off, the first selling 500,000 copies, which in that nation was comparable to the Beatles or Elvis Presley.

Searching for Sugar Man is a 2012 Swedish/British documentary directed by Malik Bendjelloul, which follows the efforts of two Cape Town fans, Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman and Craig Bartholomew Strydom, to find out whether the rumored death of Rodriguez was true, and, if not, to discover what had become of him. The film won the Special Jury Prize and the Audience Award for Best International Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, the Audience Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival, the Audience Award at the Durban International Film Festival and the Audience Award at the Melbourne Film Festival. Malik Bendjelloul won the 2013 Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Achievement in Documentary for Searching for Sugar Man, which has also been nominated for Best Documentary Feature Film at the 2013 Academy Awards to be held in February 2013.

Searching for Sugar Man: The Official UK Trailer

Sixto Rodriguez: The Rock Icon Who Didn’t Know It

Sixty Minutes Overtime: Sixto Rodriguez

Sixto Rodriguez Performs “Crucify Your Mind” (David Letterman)

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The Ruins of Detroit: A Sad Narrative of Urban Life in America

Michigan Central Station

The Ballroom, Lee Plaza Hotel

Atrium, The Farwell Building

Bagley-Clifford Office of the National Bank of Detroit

The William Livingstone House

The Ruins of Detroit: A Sad Narrative of Urban Life in America

The Ruins of Detroit is a powerful and disturbing collection of photographs, which are the result of a five-year collaboration by the French photographers Yves Marchand and Romain MeffreThe Ruins of Detroit tells the city’s story in one starkly beautiful photograph after another, adding up to nothing less than an end-of-empire narrative.  The abandoned factories, the eerily vacant schools, the rotting houses and gutted skyscrapers chronicled by Marchand and Meffre are the artefacts of Detroit’s astonishing rise as a global capital of capitalism and its even more extraordinary descent into ruin, a place where the boundaries between the American dream and the American nightmare, between prosperity and poverty, between the permanent and the ephemeral are powerfully and painfully visible.  No place exemplifies both the creative and destructive forces of modernity more than Detroit, past and present.

In addition to these remarkable photographs, this piece presents a memorable slide show of additional images from the collection and a documentary short film.  Pure Detroit is a short film by Ivan George with gorgeous cinematography, but it’s also one that confronts the viewer with dramatic images of the collapse and decay that rapid economic and social change can have upon urban life.  The impact of the film has been described as somewhere between heaven, hell and quiet meditation.  While Pure Detroit is a beautiful visual mood piece, it’s also incredibly sad.  The film reveals so much about the rapid changes we’re encountering in our world right now, how the old things gets broken much faster than new things are put in their place.  Pure Detroit serves as a powerful reminder of what the old things breaking down can be like for so many of us.

Pure Detroit: When Old Things Get Broken

Slide Show: The Ruins of Detroit/A Sad Narrative of Urban Life in America

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

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What Do You Want for Christmas?

What Do You Want for Christmas?

What Do You Want for Christmas? is a curiously witty holiday short film directed by Andy Miller.  A number of people on the streets of Detroit and Chicago were given the same question: “What do you want for Christmas?”  They were asked to wish for anything in the world, without limitation.  The film shows what can be be done with quick cuts and sometimes no words at all.  Short insights, put together cleverly, makes for a great time.  So what did they want?  Gloves, Jobs, Peace on Earth, Snow, Family harmony, Mega-Millions, Fancy car, Inner peace, and much more….

What Do You Want for Christmas?

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Detroit Experiences: Robert Frank Photographs, 1955

Detroit Experiences: Robert Frank Photographs, 1955

Detroit Experiences is a series of photographs by the legendary photographer, Robert Frank.  In 1955 and 1956, Frank traveled the U.S. taking photographs for his groundbreaking book The Americans, published in 1958.  With funding from a prestigious Guggenheim grant, he set out to create a large visual record of America, and Detroit was one of his early stops.  Inspired by autoworkers, the cars they made, along with local lunch counters, drive-in movies and public parks such as Belle Isle, Frank transformed everyday experiences of Detroiters into an extraordinary visual statement about American life.

Robert Frank: The Americans

Slide Show: Detroit Experiences/Robert Frank Photographs, 1955

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

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Photos of the Day: Visions of Auto-Magic Through the Years

Photos of the Day: Visions of Auto-Magic Through the Years

Visions of Auto-Magic is a captivating collection of photographs of automobiles through the years, images that often transform the ordinary of urban daily life into intense images that sizzle and delight the eye.  The photographs range from very early street pictures, to more recent highly abstract views.  The master photographers represented in this photo-essay include: Walker Evans, Alfred Steiglitz,  Ray K. Metzker, Dennis Stock and Harry Callahan.

The Rolls-Royce Ghost: The 2009 World Premiere

Slide Show: Visions of Auto-Magic Through the Years

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

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It’s Old Time Burlesque: Put Your Hands Up 4 Detroit!

It’s Old Time Burlesque: Put Your Hands Up 4 Detroit!

Fedde La Grande: Put Your Hands Up 4 Detroit!

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