|A well-deserved Oscar for this fantastic documentary about a true artist|
|Rodriguez recording with his guitar in the early 1970s|
The documentary perfectly recreates the story thanks to some great storytellers. Bendjelloul also does a bit of searching himself, tracking down the owner of Rodriguez's record label who went bankrupt. While he missed the talented musician, he couldn't understand what all the fuss was about.
When we finally get to meet Rodriguez, he seems hesitant to be on camera and in the end doesn't have much to say. However, his actions speak louder than words when you watch the archival footage of him performing in South Africa in 1998 for a series of sold-out concerts. He is gracious and kind, soaking in all the attention and yet not letting it go to his head.
His daughters also give some insight into their father. He is Mexican American, and their mother is part European, part Native American. Interestingly the film does not say more about what happened to their mother. They grew up living a tough life, living in places with roofs over their heads, but not necessarily with electricity or running water.
Their father worked odd jobs, mostly in construction and demolition. One daughter recalls watching him carry a refrigerator on his back. He says he learned the guitar when he was in his teens and started performing at 16. He tried to get gigs wherever he could and in the old photographs one could see a confident Rodriguez with his shades, looking very stylish. As one fellow construction worker jokes, Rodriguez would show up for work in a tuxedo.
|Rodriguez today taking his fame in stride|
The children say their father has a degree in philosophy and took them to the library and art galleries to open their eyes beyond Detroit. He was not embarrassed or afraid to take his children to places that seemed elitist and this helped them understand their father as an artist too.
Despite being rediscovered and performing in South Africa a few times, Rodriguez still lives a spartan life in a home he has lived in for 40 years. Now in his early 70s, he doesn't do the hard work anymore, though one of his daughters forced him to get a mobile phone so she could contact him instead of having to drive through the neighbourhood to find him.
Rodriguez's music is woven throughout the film, at times as background music, others placed in the forefront complete with some animation that gives the film an artistic touch.
We enjoyed the film immensely because of the fascinating story as well as how it was told. Rodriguez himself is an enlightening character -- someone who rises above the mundane and unwaveringly continues to live by his values, something we should all learn from.