'Sugar Man' finds documentary prize at Oscars

Posted at 7:45 AM, Feb 25, 2013
and last updated 2015-02-16 10:16:43-05

"Searching for Sugar Man," the heartwarming chronicle of a forgotten musician's rediscovery, has won the Academy Award for best documentary feature.

Directed by the Swedish filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul, "Searching for Sugar Man" tells the story of the Detroit singer-songwriter Rodriguez, who disappeared from public life after releasing an album in the early '70s but developed an unlikely cult following in South Africa. It's structured as a bit of a mystery, with the audience not knowing where he is — or whether he's even alive — until about halfway through the film.

"Thanks to one of the greatest singers ever, Rodriguez," Bendjelloul said during a brief on-stage speech.

Backstage, producer Simon Chinn explained that Rodriguez wasn't at the ceremony because "he genuinely doesn't want to take credit for this film. ... He's genuinely a humble man and he wanted to stay at home in Detroit and watch it on television."

"Searching for Sugar Man" was a favorite among a strong field on contenders, having won already at the Directors and Writers Guild Awards, the Critics Choice Awards and the BAFTAs. The other nominees Sunday night were "5 Broken Cameras," ''The Gatekeepers," ''How to Survive a Plague" and "The Invisible War."

The voting process for the documentary category underwent an overhaul this year intended to limit the nomination of obscure films, and ensure that a larger group of documentary filmmakers winnowed the nominees.

The 85th Academy Awards are airing live from the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles with host Seth MacFarlane.