Searching for Sugar Man

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +3

Content: +2

Limited release began 7/27/12.

FILM SYNOPSIS:This compelling documentary concerns a 1970s Bob Dylan/Harry Chapin/Jim Croce-type musician named Sixto Rodriguez whose albums failed to sell in the U.S. but who achieved enormous success halfway around the world, completely unbeknownst to him. He was a legend and never knew it, living simply and quietly for the next 40 years as a humble day laborer and family man in inner city Detroit – until he was discovered by music researchers who had believed him to have committed suicide decades earlier.

Searching for Sugar Man provides a real-life look at the paths we choose in life, the decisions we make, and how we tend to value only material wealth and success when true wealth is the love we have in our families and the peace we have in our homes. It shows how our choices oftentimes conflicts with God’s plan for our lives, but how when we surrender trustfully to divine providence, we can be confident that everything will work out in the end.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Like Bob Dylan, Rodriquez sang about political and social injustice, a troubadour who saw wrongdoing amid a “repressed” society. Like many of his love generation, he believed the culture needed to be changed. He and his fellow activists were right – well, at least to a certain extent. Sadly, while wanting to see all men free and granted respect, they sought change in the establishment by way of a humanistic perspective. So, while artists and activists fought for the freedom of man’s physical nature, they did so without regard for man’s spiritual development. They simply left God out of their equation.

As we look at our present-day society, there’s no denying that some justice has been brought to our world via the cultural revolution of the 1960s and early ‘70s. This began in no small measure through the insights of the world’s artists. Sadly, change was brought about at a spiritual cost. As a nation, we’ve lost sight of the need to center God in our daily lives. While separation of church and state satisfies some, there are still those who realize that our founding fathers meant that government should not dictate policy at the expense of its people’s religious liberty. They knew, because they knew the history of other lands, that if today we dismiss the Deity from the social, political and daily structure of man’s existence, tomorrow we forfeit His blessing upon future generations.

Did you know that at one time in America’s early years, Congress paid for the printing of Bibles and their distribution to schools? Our leaders once knew knowledge of spiritual matters would aid and strengthen the citizenry. Look where we are since our laws now sustain our nation by man’s reasoning alone. Yet, we must ask, has this mandate of the forsaking of a spiritual awareness served our nation in any arena – be it educational, social, or political?

All that to say, the anti-establishment, pro-hippy view of the world found in the music of Rodriquez revealed in this film is not what I found emotionally or intellectually stimulating. It had so much more to say than the supporting of a social or political dogma. In fact, his political perspective quickly becomes obscured by the film’s true purpose. – an enlightening one if we pay close attention.

Searching for Sugar Man spotlights the importance found in any life otherwise shortchanged by fame and fortune. From what I can see, Rodriquez is a man of character. He lives his life by the tenets he preached during those early years of artistic release. He is a humble man (by the film’s account) who lives modestly. The world’s allure does not govern his lifestyle or his character. He comes across as someone I’d like to know, no matter his views, which may differ from mine. He seems like a good man. And it’s always good to know a good man (so much for my Aristotle-like philosophy).

Don’t we all go through times, perhaps even an entire lifetime, when we wish someone else would suddenly see who we are through our eyes? But for a few, the majority of us go through our lives unacknowledged or underappreciated. But when we take the focus off ourselves and begin to develop the inner nature as one of a servant to God and our fellowman, then we find ourselves at peace.

As this is an area I wish to develop in my life, the film spoke to me. Though the film fails to incorporate spiritual enlightenment through Jesus Christ, still its occasional revelation of another’s inner man through the arts reminded me of what’s truly important. These visual examples, coupled with daily Bible study, remind me that if I place import on Christ and my fellow man, rather than seeking my own glory, I can truly find my way through life. By that I mean, of all the biographies I’ve read over the years, I’ve never sensed that a celebrity found contentment through fame. Those who did find peace of mind did so despite their celebrity.

Searching for Sugar Man is an absorbing, moving documentary, one that spotlights the positive character of a man at peace with himself. The film doesn’t tell us if he is a man of faith, but it reminds us that peace within is found through the awareness of something outside ourselves. And that this search, like our trek through life, is a daily one.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Sony Pictures Classics

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: Six obscenities, mostly the s-word.

Profanity: The expression “God d---“ is used once in a song lyric; it is uttered one other time.

Violence: None, though a man’s supposed death is graphically described as the legend goes that the artist killed himself by setting himself on fire, or by shooting himself; neither incident was true.

Sex: None

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: There are drug references in a song’s lyrics.

Other: None

Running Time: 85 minutes
Intended Audience: Mature viewers

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