According to the Associated Press, Malik Bendjelloul has died at age 36 only a year after winning an Oscar for directing Searching for Sugar Man. Though no crime is suspected in relation to Bendjelloul’s death, the authorities in Stockholm have not yet divulged any other details.
There isn’t much to say about this story, and that’s a huge part of the tragedy. Aside from acting in some Swedish TV show twenty-five years ago and directing Sugar Man, his filmography is entirely blank. He was only 36 years old, after all. Yet he won an Academy Award on his very first attempt at directing, which is an impressive feat by any standard. What’s more, Bendjelloul’s film brought new life to the career of an obscure yet improbably influential musical talent. Hell, the documentary inspired a lawsuit now underway to find the royalties denied to Sixto “Sugar Man” Rodriguez for so many years.
Bendjelloul made an outstanding documentary that won armfuls of awards, and that should have been the start of a long and amazing career. And now we’ll never know what films he might have made with that newfound experience and credibility. I hope you’ll all join me in raising a glass and paying respect to the films that might have been.
Good night and thank you, Malik Bendjelloul. Better luck next time.