Yesterday, news broke that Malik Bendjelloul, Oscar-winning director of Searching For Sugar Man, had been found dead in Stockholm. At the time, Swedish police gave no cause of death, stating only that no foul play was suspected. Now Bendjelloul’s brother, Swedish TV and radio personality Johar Bendjelloul, has confirmed that his brother committed suicide.
A TV journalist by training, Bendjelloul quit his job and poured his savings into making a documentary about Sixto Rodriguez, a little-known Detroit musician who had developed a major following in South Africa. Toward the end of the project, he ran so low on funds that he had to resort to shooting footage on an iPhone.
The resulting film become an unlikely, runaway success, winning Bendjelloul a Best Documentary Oscar, a BAFTA, a Sundance Special Jury Prize, and awards from the DGA, PGA, WGA, and National Board of Review. It also revitalized Rodriguez’s career.
According to a statement from Bendjelloul’s family, the director had struggled with depression. His death comes as a shock to the closely knit Swedish film industry, where Bendjelloul was known for being friendly and modest, but also deeply determined. He was 36.