Film: Oscar nomination of ‘Sugar Man’ – the Freemuse connection

11 January 2013

The documentary film ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ – the amazing story of US singer Rodriguez, who was unaware that he was “world famous” in South Africa in the 1970s – has been nominated for an Oscar, the American award given annually for excellence of cinematic achievements.


Directed by Swedish filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul, the film has not only sparked off the musical career of Rodriquez with almost 40 years delay, it has moved hundreds of thousands of people and even created a renewed interest in music censorship in South Africa during apartheid.

As a reviewer writes on “It is all the more impressive because he spent 30 years in demolition and cleanup instead of filling our minds and souls with his remarkable music. The story is too crazy to be made up; no one would see it if it were a piece of fiction, unless it was written by Kurt Vonnegut or Douglas Adams. But it is a true story, a gripping story, and a rewarding story.”

In the 1970s, a bootleg recording of Rodriquez found its way into apartheid South Africa and over the next two decades he became a phenomenon and a symbol of resistance against the brutal apartheid regime. The film follows the story of two South African fans who set out to find out what really happened to their hero, whom they thought had died.

In the long list of credits making the film possible is also a “thanks to Freemuse”.

Freemuse Programme Manager Ole Reitov explains why:

“Malik, the director, called me a couple of years ago, while he was researching this amazing story. From his work at the Swedish Television he knew that Freemuse had been working extensively in South Africa and documented mechanisms and effects of music censorship. I told him that at SABC, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, they used to have a censorship panel, which was censoring music according to 13 written rules.
In those days the censors at SABC would even physically scratch with a nail those tracks on vinyls which were to be censored, so I suggested Malik contacted the current head of the SABC archive, Ilse Assman. In the film, Ilse shows Malik the copies of the Rodriquez’s vinyl which were scratched.”

‘Searching for Sugar Man’ has already won several awards, including the Special Jury Prize and the Audience Award for best international documentary at the Sundance Film Festival.

Freemuse film on music censorship
In 2002 Freemuse produced the first ever documentary on music censorship in South Africa, ‘Stopping the music’. It tells another amazing story of South African protest singer Roger Lucey and the security branch policeman Paul Erasmus who was assigned to end his career.

Roger Lucey, a white protest singer, dared to challenge the injustices of the system through the songs he wrote. When his music bgained popularity, the security police intervened. In July 1995, former security branch policeman Paul Erasmus published startling revelations about his apartheid-era assignment to stop Lucey’s music.

‘Stopping the music’ was filmed in post-apartheid South Africa, focusing directly on the relationship between Lucey and Erasmus. The two revisit the Johannesburg of their turbulent past. They each describe and explain their experiences of the dirty tricks.

Roger Lucey recently published a book,’Back in from the Anger’ about his life.


‘Sugarman’ trailer

Interview with film director Malik Bendjelloul and Rodriguez

Roger Lucey’s book:

Interview with Roger Lucey about his book:

Stopping the Music:
South Africa: Film documentary ‘Stopping the Music’




Home / News / Film: Oscar nomination of ‘Sugar Man’ – the Freemuse connection