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`Sugar Man' finds documentary prize at Oscars

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CHRISTY LEMIRE | February 25, 2013 12:25 AM EST | AP


LOS ANGELES — "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.