BREAKING: In the first deal on the ground at Sundance, Sony Pictures Classics bought North American rights to Searching For Sugar Man, which premiered last night as the opening film of the festival’s World Cinema Documentary Competition. The documentary, from first-time director Malik Bendjelloul, revolves around a South African musical phenomenon named Rodriguez, a musician who hailed from Detroit and was an unsung 1960s hero — a mix of Bob Dylan and Smokey Robinson — who never made it big.
There were even rumors that he had shot himself to death onstage. In South Africa, an album of his, a protest of apartheid, became a huge seller, and the film is a search for the man behind the legend. The doc is produced by Simon Chinn of Red Box Films and executive produced by John Battsek of Passion Pictures in association with Canfield Pictures and The Documentary Co. Rodriguez is actually around to take his bows, playing a song during this morning’s screening at The Yarrow. Submarine’s Josh Braun and David Koh sold it, and is now entertaining overtures for remake rights. Protagonist Pictures is handling international sales.