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Swedish director and actor. Born in Ystad. Died in Solna, Stockholm.-Malik Bendjelloul started out as an actor at an early age, playing Philip in the popular TV series Ebba och Didrik (1990). After studies in journalism and media production at Kalmar University he worked briefly as a journalist before turning his hand to making documentaries for Swedish public broadcaster SVT, often about musicians. Among those portraited were Björk, Kraftwerk, Elton John, Sting and Rod Stewart. His debut feature Searching for Sugar Man...

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Biography

Swedish director and actor. Born in Ystad. Died in Solna, Stockholm.

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Malik Bendjelloul started out as an actor at an early age, playing Philip in the popular TV series Ebba och Didrik (1990). After studies in journalism and media production at Kalmar University he worked briefly as a journalist before turning his hand to making documentaries for Swedish public broadcaster SVT, often about musicians. Among those portraited were Björk, Kraftwerk, Elton John, Sting and Rod Stewart. His debut feature Searching for Sugar Man began as a proposed short instalment in the documentary TV programme Kobra but grew over a period of four years into a full-length film which was distributed theatrically and screened at the Sundance Film Festival. The film about the in the US virtually forgotten Detroit-based artist Rodriquez and his popularity in South Africa became the most widely seen Swedish documentary ever and went on to win several awards, including the Swedish Guldbagge for best documentary, the Academy Award for best long documentary and the British BAFTA. It also played a pivotal role in re-launching the career of its subject Rodriguez.

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Malik Bendjelloul grew up in the southern Swedish town of Ängelholm, making his acting debut at an early age in the television series Ebba och Didrik ('Ebba and Didrik',1990), directed by his uncle Peter Schildt. Although he did not continue as an actor, the experience gave him a taste for what could be achieved in the medium of film.

Upon leaving school Bendjelloul studied Journalism and Media Production at the University of Kalmar, after which he worked in Stockholm as a freelance journalist. Working for Swedish Television (SVT) at the start of the new millennium he was able to combine his love of music with his new interest in telling stories on film, resulting in memorable portraits of musicians such as Håkan Hellström, Björk and Kraftwerk, plus a number of short films about the history of hard rock. In 2004 he made his debut as a reporter for the SVT arts programme Kobra, and in the years that followed, in addition to the opening sequence featuring a host of stars filmed in one long take, he produced a range of varied reports that bore witness to his wide scope and creativity as a storyteller. Like his role model Michel Gondry, he got the opportunity to demonstrate his visual wizardry with the help of materials such as papier-mâché and polystyrene. His motto was: "Basically you can make a report about anything, any way you like, as long as you have a really good story."

While researching what was planned to be a seven-minute feature for Kobra, Bendjelloul stumbled across what he described as the most amazing story he had ever heard, about the American folk musician Sixto Rodriguez. After a couple of commercially disappointing album releases in the early 1970s, Rodriguez had been dropped by his record company and had started working on various anonymous manual jobs in his home city of Detroit. Yet his music began to spread by chance to other parts of the world such as Australia and South Africa, where for a long time and without Rodriguez' knowledge, it gained major popularity. In South Africa, with his working class lyrics, Rodriguez become one of the most admired, quasi-mythical rebel icons among young Africans under the grip of apartheid, and some of his South African fans tried to find out what had happened to their idol. Bendjelloul realised that this was a story that should be told in a feature-length format, and for the next four arduous years he invested his time and money to ensure that the film became a reality. Right from the outset the project was beset with problems, and when the film's principal financial backer threatened to withdraw support after three years, Bendjelloul was forced to improvise. When, for example, he could no longer afford any more takes in genuine super-8 for various scenes he discovered a smartphone app that enabled him to mimic the style and finish the takes at a fraction of the cost.

However, in 2012 he reaped the reward for all his efforts in the form of the finished version of Searching for Sugar Man. The months following its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival were an extended period of triumph for Bendjelloul who, in addition to the direction and screenplay, was also the film's co-producer and editor. He was feted by film critics and colleagues all over the world, scooping both a Swedish Guldbagge award and a BAFTA even before February 2013, when he became the first Swedish feature film director in 30 years to see his film win an Oscar (for best documentary). Hot on the heels of this success, offers to direct films in Hollywood started to pour in, yet Bendjelloul chose to turn them down. He felt that he wanted to continue to have total control over his filmmaking.

Yet unfortunately we will never be able to enjoy more Malik Bendjelloul creations: he died suddenly in May 2014 at the young age of 36.

Martin Ohlsson (2014)

Awards

Nominated for the Guldbagge Award Stockholm 2013 Best Music Searching for Sugar Man
Stockholm 2013 Best Sound Searching for Sugar Man
Stockholm 2013 Best Screenplay Searching for Sugar Man
Stockholm 2013 Best Editing Searching for Sugar Man
SFF's Glas Statuette (Sweden) Stockholm 2013 Delad tillsammans med Gabriela Pichler .

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