Thursday, May 15, 2014

When an Oscar can't keep you alive

Last year, Malik Bendjelloul accepted the Academy Award for best documentary for "Searching for Sugar Man." This week, he committed suicide. In his memory, here's the title track from the film he co-produced, directed, wrote and edited.

The movie profiled Sixto Rodriqguez, a folk musician from the 1970s who by chance became one of the most popular recording artists in South African history -- and never knew that or saw any royalties from his success. When Bendjelloul caught up with him in Detroit, Rodriguez was nearing 70 and tearing down abandoned houses for a living. He seemed a happy guy, one who didn't worry about lost dreams or feelings of failure.

Bendjelloul, apparently, was the opposite. Despite universal acclaim for "Sugar Man," which earned awards from 20 festivals and critics' associations, the Swedish-born director never began another project before taking his life in Stockholm. Here's a photo of him:

Online comments have varied from idiotic to dismissive to sympathetic, but most of them end up asking how this could have happened. How could anyone who earned an Oscar at 35 not go on to a long and happy career as a filmmaker?

His brother Johar told the Swedish paper Aftonbladet that Malik had been depressed for a short time and added "Life is not always so easy." I was reminded again of the heartbreaking note a San Francisco man left a few years ago, on the day he leaped off the Golden Gate Bridge: "I'm going to walk to the bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way, I will not jump." None of us can know exactly how close anyone else is to taking that last, most drastic step.


Anonymous said...

Probably would've been appropriate and helpful if you'd posted a photo of Bendjelloul instead of this static little video. You could've posted links to the video.

Anonymous said...

Why must everyone criticize?

Anonymous said...

Larry, thank you so much for informing readers of this tragic event. "Searching for Sugar Man" has to be my all time favorite documentary. I loved learning about Sixto Rodriguez and I love his music. As I type this I am listening to the playlist you included - all 11 songs. How nice to hear Rodriguez again. Thanks!

Lawrence Toppman said...

As per the initial commenter's request, I have added a photo. I still think it's worth linking to that video, static though it is; that music keeps running through my head.

Anonymous said...

"Why must everyone criticize?"

It was a suggestion, not a criticism.

Why must some people, such as yourself, nitpick everything someone else says?