'Sugar Man' director Malik Bendjelloul committed suicide, family says

'Sugar Man' director Malik Bendjelloul committed suicide, family says

POSTED: Sunday, May 18, 2014 - 8:45pm

UPDATED: Sunday, May 18, 2014 - 11:06pm

Malik Bendjelloul, the Oscar-winning director of "Searching for Sugar Man," committed suicide, his brother said.

"My brother had been struggling with depression for a short period of time, and depression is something you can die from," Johar Bendjelloul said in a statement released to CNN by the radio show where he works. "This is such an enormous loss that I have no words for it. We ask that everyone kindly respect our family's privacy during this devastating time."

The Swedish director died Tuesday in Stockholm, police said. He was 36.

Bendjelloul won the 2013 best documentary Academy Award for his debut feature about an obscure American crooner who gained fame abroad but remained almost unknown at home.

"Searching for Sugar Man" is the story of Sixto Rodriguez, a singer from Detroit who became a legend in South Africa. With lyrics such as "The system's gonna fall soon, to an angry young tune," Rodriguez unwittingly became the voice of the anti-apartheid struggle in the 1970s, even as his records flopped in his own country.

The film gets its title from "Sugar Man," a 1970 Rodriguez song about a drug peddler.

"It was this lost masterpiece, like a Cinderella story, a fairy tale," Bendjelloul said of Rodriguez's life. "I never heard anything like that. A story that was so rich and true."

Bendjelloul had likened the Oscar to winning his native country's Nobel Prize. "This is the only one that is on the same level," he said.

-- CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet, Ray Sanchez and Nischelle Turner contributed to this report.

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