WARNING – Contains spoilers – Please see the movie first.
The singer Sixto “Jesus” Rodriguez was discovered in back-alley restaurants in Detroit, by two record producers, Dennis Coffey and Mike Theodore in 1970, and signed to the record label Sussex Records. He made two records, Cold Fact (1970) and Coming from Reality (1971). But the records didn’t sell at all, and he disappeared from public knowledge.
Unknown for all the implicated Americans, his albums made it as bootlegs to South Africa, and was hugely popular during the apartheid days, but because of the closed society, nobody outside of South Africa knew of his success there.
This movie is a documentary of two South Africans search for Rodriguez, to find out, what happened to him. The rumors in South Africa are that he committed suicide on stage. The stories vary as to how this happened. Either he shot himself or he poured gasoline over himself, and burned to death.
Malik Bendjelloul has made an intriguing detective story garnered with fantastic music. When you hear the music Rodriguez made all those years ago, it’s hard to believe that he didn’t achieve a breakthrough. A buddy of mine has described it as Bob Dylan with a better voice, and I quite agree. The movie has some interesting twists and turns, and although it’s a lot of talking heads, you never lose interest in the story.