A tour of South Africa is arranged; the daughters assume it’ll be a small clubs and dive bars affair. It’s not, and part of the deep-dish delight of “Searching for Sugar Man” is watching a forgotten artist opening the door of his life to find tens of thousands camped outside. The final scenes of “Searching for Sugar Man” are both triumphal and profoundly comforting, because dreams don’t usually pay off this big. Even as you wonder how Bendjelloul is shaping the dream, you don’t begrudge Rodriguez. He’s earned whatever he can get, and this is overtime.
What he hasn’t earned is any royalties from all those record sales. “Where’s the money?” is a strand that snakes throughout the film, asked more by the daughters and the filmmakers than Rodriguez himself. The trail appears to stop at Clarence Avant, the head of the singer’s original label and an old man who turns belligerent when Bendjelloul presses him on the matter. The history of the record industry is long with tales of artists ripped off and profits mysteriously vanished, and after a while the film simply shrugs and gives up the trail. Someone made a lot of money off Sixto Rodriguez, but it wasn’t him. Touching the lives of millions will have to do.