'Searching for Sugar Man' Wins Oscar, and More Praise for Rodriguez

6:30 AM PST 02/25/2013 by Phil Gallo, Billboard

In 85 years of the Academy Awards, only a handful of music-oriented films have won the documentary prize.

Searching for Sugar Man, honored with more than 30 awards in the last year, won the big one Sunday when it was named best documentary at the 85th annual Academy Awards.

Director Malik Bendjelloul's film about the forgotten musician Rodriguez capped its journey that began at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival where Sony Pictures Classics acquired the film, leading to a theatrical release in July. Simultaneously, it revived the career of Rodriguez, who recently completed a tour of South Africa.

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"He wanted to stay home in Detroit" and watch the Oscars on TV, producer Simon Chinn said backstage. "He genuinely doesn't want to take credit; he regards it as Malik's film."

Searching for Sugar Man is the first music-oriented film to win the documentary award since 1986's Artie Shaw: Time is All You've Got. From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China, Woodstock and "Arthur Rubenstein - The Love of Life are the other music films that have won the documentary Oscar.

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The recent DVD release of Searching for Sugar Man helped push the Sony legacy soundtrack and Light in the Attic's reissue of his first album Cold Fact back onto the Billboard 200.

In Searching for Sugar Man, Bendjelloul documents two South African fans' efforts to learn the truth about  about how Rodriguez, a Detroit singer-guitarist who made two albums for Sussex in the early 1970s, died. Their adventure leads to the telling of Rodriguez's life away from music and his triumphant visit to South Africa in 1998.

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