Malik Bendjelloul: Searching for Sugar Man director dies aged 36

The cause of his death is not yet known

Ella Alexander
Wednesday 14 May 2014 15:14

Director Malik Bendjelloul has died aged 36.

His body was found yesterday in Stockholm. Police could not confirm the cause of death, but said they were not treating it as suspicious.

The filmmaker was most famous for his 2012 documentary Searching for Sugar Man, for which he won an Oscar and BAFTA in 2013.

The film follows two South Africans as they search for musical legend Rodriguez, a Seventies folk singer whose debut album, Cold Fact, became the soundtrack to the breakdown of the apartheid in the Seventies and Eighties.

However, the musician disappeared into obscurity and it was rumoured that he had died in an on-stage accident. He never received any of the royalties from the album and was eventually found working on a building site in Detroit.

The documentary makers convinced him to return to South Africa for a string of concerts, where he was welcomed as a hero. He still tours today, aged 71.

The film was shot over five years and went onto make $3.6m (£2.7m) at the box office. At one stage, Bendjelloul ran out of money and was forced to film the remaining segments with his iPhone.

He was determined to make the documentary because “it is the best story I have ever heard in my life, and I think I ever will hear”.


Born in Ystad in southern Sweden, Bendjelloul acted as a child before studying journalism and and media production at the Linnaeus University of Kalmar.

He went onto work as a reporter for Swedish public broadcaster SVT, but left to go travelling - during which time he discovered the story for Searching for Sugar Man.

He has directed documentaries about a number of other musicians, including Elton John, Rod Stewart, Bjork and Kraftwerk.

Michael Barker and Tom Bernard at Sony Pictures Classics, which distributed Searching for Sugar Man paid tribute to the director this morning.

“We are so sad to hear of Malik Bendjelloul's passing,” they said in a statement.

"Much like Rodriguez himself, Malik was a genuine person who chased the world for stories to tell.

“He didn't chase fame, fortune or awards, although those accolades still found him as many others recognised his storytelling.”

Read more: Review: Searching for Sugar Man
Interview: Ellen Jones meets Malik Bendjelloul
All you need to know about Rodriguez

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments