Searching For The Sugarman

“Searching For Sugarman”

I’m always game for an interesting Rock’n’Roll documentary, even if it’s about a musician or genre I’m not that familiar with. If the subject’s story is told and filmed well, then I’m sure to get something out of it. And I sure got something out of this truly unique tale.

“Searching For Sugarman” follows the curious journey of Sixto Rodriguez, an enigmatic young Hispanic troubadour, who plays in the bars of Sixties Detroit, and soon draws the attention of a local record producer. For an idealistic working class lad, that doesn’t exactly seem to have his eye on the prize, Rodriguez lands a record deal with Hollywood based Sussex Records, which takes him to California. Sussex thinks they have just signed the new Bob Dylan, and their boy is going to be a mega-star. But his debut album “Cold Fact” is a total flop, and its follow up, “Coming From Reality”, fares little better. Dropped by his label, Rodriguez returns to Detroit, and soon drops completely off the radar.

The entertainment business is littered with similar tales of artistes whose careers were over before they’d even begun, and barely even made the ‘Where Are They Now’ file. So here’s the twist; a copy of “Cold Fact” turns up in early Seventies South Africa, a country under the control of an ugly government, determined to enforce their twisted vision of racial superiority through apartheid. But lots of young white Afrikaners had no interest in living in a country divided upon racial lines, and were determined to make their opinions heard. Via word of mouth, and copied tapes, imports, and no doubt a fair few bootlegs, “Cold Fact” becomes the soundtrack to their protests, and a massive hit in South Africa, selling by the bucket load. Licensed to at least 3 local labels, the owners, who are all interviewed, confirm they sent royalties diligently back to the publishers. And I believed them. Unlike the most likely recipient of the funds, former Sussex Records head honcho Clarence Avant, who reacts to questions of the royalties whereabouts with an aggressive hostility that implies he’s trying to cover up the truth.

Back in the USA, Rodriguez was oblivious to his cult status, thousands of miles away, in Southern Africa, where, the fate of their musical icon is somewhat more distorted, and rumors of his demise include him having committed suicide on stage. The rumors become folklore, and accepted as fact. Rodriguez RIP.

Enter the wonderful Stephen “Sugar” Segerman, a super fan of Rodriguez’s music, and determined to learn what did actually happen to the man whose music inspired his generation. He studies the lyrics for clues, utilizes the internet, and makes an ally in music journalist Craig Bartholomew-Strydom. Between them… well, I wont give too much more away, but needless to say, they come up trumps, and not only succeed with satisfying their own obsessive curiosity, but fulfill a dream that no-one in their home country thought possible.

I left the cinema totally bowled over by this fascinating story. The filming by Malik Bendjelloul and Camilla Skagerström is wonderfully shot, and incredibly creative. Honestly, if you get a chance to catch this either on the big screen, or when it’s released on DVD, don’t snooze on it, this is one of the best films I’ve seen in ages.

Pete Craven

Watch the History of Del Mar Skate Ranch

delmarBack in the 1980’s Del Mar Skate Ranch was the most legendary park in California. A breeding ground for the pro’s that made history over the years, a battlefield for competitions back then too.

A documentary has surfaced covering the golden days featuring rare footage and photos of Tony Hawk, Lance Mountain, Kevin Staab, Christian Hosoi, Dave Swift, Grant Brittain and many more ripping in the early years of the park. Check out part one of this video feature and get some skate history from here today.

Title Fight Stream Documentary Online

Punk band Title Fight are streaming the first part of their tour documentary online (which was directed and edited by Alex Henery). The film features Title Fight performances on massive stages as support to Rise Against from the April/May 2012 “Endgame” Tour.

Title Fight are over in the UK next month for a one off co-headline show with La Dispute at The Garage in London before heading of on a full Euro tour.

The Art of Rap – Something From Nothing

Ice-T’s directorial debut is a documentary of epic yet intimate proportions as he embarks upon a series of discussions with legendary rappers and purveyors of hip-hop in the cities of New York, Detroit and Los Angeles. Not a history lesson per se, the film merely touches on some of the more historical elements of the genre – how it originated, how it progressed and grew – but focuses more on each rapper’s individual process and attitude towards lyrics as well as their theories on why it’s not quite a well-respected art form in the same respect as jazz or blues.

A whole host of MCs offers up insight on their approach towards rhymes and one of the overwhelming features of the film is how we see rappers with actual pen and paper crafting their verse with consideration and diligence. This is not something that the genre of hip-hop often brings to mind. Seeing Grandmaster Caz’ obvious irritation at running out of ink and having to switch pens halfway through his flow is something quite brilliant. His neat handwriting fills the page, albeit littered with F words and N words. Another who is interviewed by the always eloquent and directive Ice-T discusses the construction of a track from the outline of a plot, kicking off with its conclusion and there are also some great shots of sheets of paper with flowchart diagrams tracking the progression of lyrical content. Dr Dre teaches us that Tupac wrote all his lyrics (again with pen and paper) inside the vocal both and then would lay them down immediately.

This film teaches us many things about legendary rappers’ processes and also how they think the genre is viewed and why it’s perceived in such a way. It also brings us a series of original a capellas as the likes of KRS-One, Melle Mel, Q-Tip and Kanye West present original rhymes direct to camera, prompting woops, gasps and general sounds of approval even in a half empty cinema. This is the sort of piece of cinema that should really be shown in schools and universities in years to come but is also a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.

Sarah Maynard

Ice-T Announces UK Premier for Rap Documentary

Rapper Ice-T is set to premier his directional debut later this month. Ice-T’s documentary entitled “Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap” is to be screened at BFI Southbank in London on 20th July 2012 with Ice-T hosting a questions & answers session at the event.

The documentary revolves around Ice-T interviewing several influential rap icons including Chuck D, KRS-One, Nas, Eminem, Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg & Kayne West. The documentary will also feature these key figures having their skills put to the test by Ice-T. A trailer for the highly anticipated documentary is available to view below.

Lords of the Swords documentary online

This is one of the best things that happens in the Essex skate scene” – yes it is and it’s coming again in August right here at Crossfire. Watch this documentary about Luke Macduke’s work in pulling the Essex scene together for their most prestigious get together.

2011/2012 Lords Of The Swords Doc from Lords Of The Swords on Vimeo.

Danny Way ‘Waiting for Lightning’ interview feature

Jacob Rosenberg’s much anticipated ‘Waiting For Lightning‘ movie screened for the very first time at London’s Prince Charles cinema last night in front of a sold out crowd. UK skaters traveled from all over the country to take in the documented life of legendary skater Danny Way who, alongside writer Bret Johnston, sat back and enjoyed the film before being mobbed and praised by many.

The documentary that can only be explained as ‘epic’, takes you through Danny Way’s history as a child, growing up and skateboarding throughout turbulent family times in Vista, California. It’s a fairly emotional ride, telling a story of the loss, pain, progression, hunger and the ultimate satisfaction of being able to give so much back to skateboarding. The film features the build up to the Great Wall of China jump, the rise of H-Street and Plan B with many guests and close friends and family that include managers Darryl Franklin and Ray Ibe, Way’s mother, Mary, Christian Hosoi, Mike Blabac, Rodney Mullen, Ken Block, Colin McKay, Tony Hawk, Bod Boyle, Steve Douglas and many, many more who share their thoughts on the rise and rise of the most legendary skateboarder of all time.

Scroll down past the gallery of screengrabs from the movie for our exclusive video interview with Danny, ‘WFL’ Bret Johnston and reactions from the UK rabble that left the cinema in awe. Look out for the full DC video that is said to have the creme of the Hawaiian session footage from Danny’s dream home that he spoke to us about in our last interview with him back in 2004.

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Danny Way’s Waiting for Lightning film hits London

The wait is over, as news has just reached us with the message that London’s Prince Charles Cinema will host the premiere of the Danny Way documentary ‘Waiting for Lightning’. The much anticipated film directed by Jacob Rosenberg will be shown on Tuesday May 1st with Danny Way attending the event himself.

Tickets will be on sale next week so keep an eye on the Prince Charles website. Watch this new footage of Danny’s Hawaiian mega ramp and scroll down for the flyer.


The History of Stereo Skateboards with Chris Pastras

Stereo_skateboardsIf you are a fan of Stereo Skateboards get stuck into this two part series with Chris Pastras discussing how the brand was started with Jason Lee, plus the death and of course, the revival.

Everything you need to know in about one of skateboarding’s most prolific companies is all here in this Hand To Hand documentary. Press play.

Salad Days Washington Hardcore documentary

fugazi_dischordIf you are like us and grew up listening to the sounds of Bad Brains, Fugazi, Minor Threat and beyond, get ready for another dose of reminiscing the good old days of US hardcore.

Salad Days:The Washington DC Punk Revolution is the work of Scott Crawford and Jim Saah and is looking likely to be aired in 2013. The film is said to be half way to completion to date and will be covering the 80’s hardcore scene throughout a decade of music.

The usual names and faces have already been mentioned and associated with interview time within the film such as Grohl, Rollins, Mackaye etc so expect a comprehensive discussion looking back at one of punk rock’s most exciting scenes of music in the US from the fanzines, labels promoters and bands who made it all tick.