Just days after he married Hilaria Thomas, when he could have been in some exotic place on honeymoon, Alec Baldwin, taking his Hamptons International Film Festival duties very seriously, took the stage at East Hampton's Guild Hall, to introduce a documentary that's been garnering buzz at film festivals. A hit at Sundance and Berlin, Searching for Sugar Man is an American Dream story about a '70s singer/songwriter, heavy on social commitment in the manner of Bob Dylan or Phil Ochs, who was rumored to have dramatically killed himself at the end of a performance, by gunshot or in a ball of fire. It is not a spoiler to say that Sixto Rodriguez was found alive and well and living in Detroit.
In fact, the documentary traces a quest for this mysterious man who is often seen in the shadows, his back to his audience, attired in black. Most bizarre is his superstar status in South Africa, his lyrics a call to arms against apartheid, while in the rest of the world, his name doesn't ring a bell. Royalties were going somewhere. How do you find him? Follow the money. Infused with his music, the film tells his remarkable story, showing this performer as a construction worker raising a family in a ramshackle house contrasted with his command of thousands at a concert.
The evening marked the first in the Hamptons International Film Festival Summerdoc series, and in its 20thyear, this festival had a surprise in store. After a lively Q&A with first time director Malik Bendjelloun, Alec Baldwin introduced Rodriguez who emerged in signature black and sang "I Only Have Eyes for You" and his own "The Establishment Blues." Rodriguez will perform at Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett on Saturday. Lotsa luck getting a ticket, I'm told.
Several onscreen speakers suggested Rodriguez was a prophet, a philosopher, a sage and seer. At a reception at The Maidstone Restaurant, guests queued up to speak to him. Calm, in a welter of excitement over the film, he humbly greeted each one. When asked about the film's impact on his life and career, he carefully composed this line: "People say the pen is mightier than the sword. I say, the camera is mightier than the pen."
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.