What You Can Learn From “Searching For Sugar Man”


Life is funny. It’s most often the things that we try to avoid or those things that we think just aren’t “for us” that pack the most powerful lessons, meant exactly “for us.”

When the documentary, “Searching For Sugar Man” took home the Academy Award for Best Documentary this year I thought that it must be time to check it out. I saw the movie trailer weeks before it won the Oscar and tossed it aside in my mind, thinking “Meh, that’s not really for me.”

But I was wrong.

I’m not sure that the creators of the film, or even Sugar Man himself, knew the power of the lesson they were communicating with this film. Overall, the film is supremely interesting, offering a mysterious curiosity around this musician called, “Sugar Man.”

Sugar Man was American musical genius, who went by the artist name Rodriguez. Although an American musician, his work became wildly popular in South Africa during the 1970s in the time of the South African Apartheid. He created music that was passionate, anti-establishment, real and truthful. Shielded and repressed from the rest of the world, the people of South Africa found solace, strength, and a resolve for change in Rodriguez’s music. They assumed that EVERYONE in the world knew who Rodriguez was, even though their outside communications with the rest of the world were guarded and virtually non-existent. It wasn’t until they found freedom from their government that they came to realize that nobody else knew who this huge star even was – nobody knew anything about him! It’s hard to think that’s possible in our digital age of the internet and google, but in a time where information was gained through books and word of mouth, its easy to see how the captive people of South Africa loved a guy who nobody even knew. The thing is, Sugar Man never even knew he was the Mega Star that he always dreamed he would be – not in America, but in South Africa.

I won’t tell you what happens because you should see the film, but I’m going to tell you what you can learn from watching it. (It won’t ruin the movie, I promise). Here’s the point:

Rodriguez created real art that touched and changed lives of hundreds of thousands of people across the world, people he never knew and never knew him (other than the music he created). Rodriguez broke the rules with his music, wrote and played songs that challenged the status-quo, encouraged people to be alive, live their lives, and not settle for what society says you have to conform to. While his dreams of being an American rock and roll hero were never realized, something amazing was happening with his art on the other side of the world. It was influencing lives and changing the world.

This is a lesson that we should never forget. If we are brave enough to produce great art, if we are passionate enough to release ourselves into our work and bold enough to get it out of our own heads and into the hands of other people, there are NO LIMITS to the influence we can have. It wasn’t because of Rodriguez’s self-promotion or his uncanny marketing ability, it was because he dared to create art that mattered. And that made all the difference in the world.

– Kaci

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