11. Searching for Sugar Man
Director: Malik Bendjelloul
You don't have to be a passionate music lover to fully appreciate Searching for Sugar Man, but it certainly wouldn't hurt. Directed with vibrant energy and riveting mystery by documentarian Malik Bendjelloul, the summer's most uplifting documentary investigates the enigma surrounding Sixto Rodriguez, a rocker who released an obscure album in the 1970s comparable in style and sound to early Bob Dylan. He disappeared from the public eye shortly after it tanked in the States, and, unbeknownst to him, became a megastar in South Africa after a bootleg copy of the record surfaced there.
The majority of Searching for Sugar Man operates as a detective story, piecing together clues, interviews, and other tidbits to attempt to locate Rodriguez. Once his true story comes to light, Bendjelloul's rousing character study elevates into the kind of inspirational underdog narrative that's impossible to complete without erupting into rapturous applause. Those VH1 Behind the Music specials look like Surreal Life by comparison.