Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Malik Bendjelloul, 1977-2014

The death has been announced of Swedish documentary film director Malik Bendjelloul. He was 36

Bendjelloul is known for one movie, but it won him the Oscar: Searching for Sugar Man. The Radio Sweden obituary above links to an interview their English service did with Bendjelloul back in August 2012, before Searching for Sugar Man became a big hit. But if anybody doesn't know the story, it's a good one: Sixto Rodriguez was an R&B singer in Detroit who made an album or two decades ago. The albums were commercially unsuccessful, so there was the end of his music career. But, in South Africa, which was a society shut off from the world in many ways due to the apartheid-era white rule, the album was a big hit among a certain portion of the white population who felt it spoke to what they were going through -- not all whites, after all, supported the apartheid system, and the system of state repression that kept the other races down also had to deal with this. Since Rodriguez never produced another album, his South African fans wondered what ever happened to him, leading to wild rumors. Eventually, with the fall of the apartheid system and the internet making things easier if you wanted to search for people, a couple of fans decide to try to figure out what happened to Rodriguez.

I don't know how long the linked interview will be available; Radio Sweden's weekdaily English-langauge programs (the audio files, at least) remain up for a month, so this may be gone by mid-June.

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