Saturday, 25 August 2012

searching for sugarman (w&d malik bendjelloul)

The latest in this Summer's offering of documentaries. There must be a reason why London cinemas are showing so many quality docs and so little quality dramas. Perhaps it's a failure of nerve on the part of the more adventurous distributors, or perhaps the world has run out of decent dramas. I suspect its the former. On the positive side, a lot of remarkable documentaries are getting extended outings. A friend went to see Nostalgia For The Light this week and said there was a good audience. What does it mean when our indigenous films can barely last a week in the cinemas but subtitled documentaries about subjects the drama commissioners would likely run a mile from have long, healthy outings? I'm not sure but it's indicative of something a little off-key about this British Summer with its excessive festivities and erratic climate.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, there's Malik Bendjelloul's remarkable film. A lot of films get called inspirational, but I'm not sure how many really are. It's a peculiarly moving tale about a dignified man who never got the breaks and then one day his karma turned and they came running. The greatest testimony to Rodriguez' decency comes from the words and attitudes of his daughters and colleagues. I remember back in the Vauxhall days coming across Shuggie Otis, I'm not sure how. A voice that had laid dormant for thirty years then somehow re-emerged, and the tale of Rodriguez is similar, albeit happier. For reasons you need to see the film to find out. The director constructs his tale with skill: if a drama had some of these twists you'd find them hard to credit. Underpinning the narrative is the notion that good will triumph in the end (with the word "good" used in its broadest sense); that there is another value set at work, running parallel with the one anyone inhabits, for better or for worse. I'd defy anyone not to come out of Searching for Sugarman feeling just a teeny bit uplifted and believing that maybe there's some kind of logic to it all after all.

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