I have no idea if filmmaker Les Blank (1935-2013) ever met American musician Sixto Rodriguez, the subject of SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN, but we know for certain that he met and greatly admired legendary singer and musician Mance Lipscomb. Many people consider the Texas bluesman to be the greatest blues guitarist of all time, and Blank's profile of Lipscomb - A WELL SPENT LIFE (1971) - is considered among his best films.
In the course of five decades and dozens of films, Blank redefined the core of Americana to include Black, indigenous and immigrant cultures and artists. Lipscomb recalls his work as a sharecropper at a time when white bosses treated Black farmhands like beasts of burden. But the movie is dominated by the majesty of Lipscomb's performances, which Blank films with luminous poise; Lipscomb sings in a high, haunted voice, strumming and plucking his guitar with graceful authority, evoking the spiritual dimension of worldly sorrows and joys. (Excerpted from The New Yorker)
And if you missed SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN when it originally played at the Rose, it's definitely worth catching up with through our Film Library. Sixto Rodriguez is a Mexican-American musician from Detroit who was an enigma. After putting out two albums - neither one selling well - nothing else was heard from him again. But several years later his albums traveled half way around the world to Cape Town, South Africa, where bootleg copies passed from hand to hand and his songs became anthems of the anti-apartheid movement. And then the story gets really interesting. "At 85-minutes it's a tight, sharp achievement, yet one of the things that I love about it is simple: It moves to a relaxed rhythm, in sync with its slightly otherworldly subject." -Chicago Tribune. "The best, most touching, most humbling documentary I've ever seen about a musician I've never heard of." -The Spectator