Sugar Man director Malik Bendjelloul dies aged 36

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Malik Bendjelloul 2012Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Malik Bendjelloul was a child actor before finding success as a documentary filmmaker

Oscar-winning Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul has died at the age of 36.

His body was found late on Tuesday in the Stockholm area, police say. They could not confirm the cause of death but said no crime was suspected.

He was best known for Searching for Sugar Man which won the Oscar and Bafta prizes for best documentary in 2013.

The low-budget film told the story of two South Africans searching for their music hero, 1970s American singer Sixto Rodriguez.

Bootleg copies of the singer's album Cold Fact had been an unofficial soundtrack to youth protests against apartheid in the 70s and 80s, but it was believed he had died in a bizarre onstage accident.

He was eventually found in Detroit, working on a building site, and persuaded to play a series of triumphant gigs in South Africa, where he was treated like a hero.

Speaking to the BBC in 2012, Bendjelloul said the reaction to his film was "beautiful".

"People stand up screaming and crying and it's so, so overwhelming. It's hard to find words actually."

Image caption,
Sixto Rodriguez's career was revitalised by the film. He is seen here playing at Glastonbury in 2013

But the documentary was almost abandoned mid-production, when Bendjelloul ran out of funds.

He persevered and pieced the film together over five years, even shooting some sequences on an iPhone.

"It was an extremely primitive production," he said. "It was done on my kitchen table in my apartment in Stockholm without any money at all."

He was determined to complete the project, he added, because "it is the best story I have ever heard in my life, and I think I ever will hear".

The film went on to make $3.6m (£2.7m) at the US box office.

Child actor

Michael Barker and Tom Bernard at Sony Pictures Classics, which distributed Searching for Sugar Man said: "We are so sad to hear of Malik Bendjelloul's passing."

"Much like Rodriguez himself, Malik was a genuine person who chased the world for stories to tell," the distributor added.

"He didn't chase fame, fortune or awards, although those accolades still found him as many others recognised his storytelling."

Bendjelloul was born in the town of Ystad in southern Sweden, about 35 miles east of Malmo.

As a child, he acted in the TV series Ebba and Didrik, before studying journalism and media production at the Linnaeus University of Kalmar.

He later worked as a reporter for Swedish public broadcaster SVT, but resigned to travel the world. During that trip, he stumbled across the story for Searching for Sugar Man.

He had also directed television documentaries about singers Elton John, Rod Stewart, Bjork and German electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk, according to the Swedish Film Institute.