After increasing public demand, the team behind award-winning director Oliver Hermanus’ film, Moffie, has released its haunting recreation of the iconic song “Sugar Man”, a month to the day of the film’s South African release on 13 March.
“The whole experience has been wonderful, surreal,” says Rebekah Thompson, the singer with the rich alto-voice that music producer Ben Ludik sourced to reimagine Rodriguez’s beloved song. “It all happened so fast and I certainly never thought that it would get here. I’m blown away by the fact that (this rendition) of ‘Sugar Man’ is going to be on radio.”
The story of a young conscript who battles to survive compulsory service in Apartheid-South Africa’s military while confronting toxic masculinity and coming to terms with his sexual orientation, has received high praise from film critics since its premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September of last year.
“I am very honored to be a part of Moffie,” says Thompson. “I think that it is a story that South Africa needs to hear and see, and I’m looking forward to its South African release next month.”
Initially, the plan was to acquire the rights to use Rodriguez’s original version in the film. “It was a real hope of ours to include ‘Sugar Man’ in Moffie,” says Hermanus. “At first, we had it as part of the story world of the characters but later I shopped the idea of creating our own version of the song for the film’s soundtrack. We were very fortunate to be given the rights, and the opportunity to re-imagine the song,” he adds.
Hermanus then reached out to Ludik, whose credits include the score for another celebrated Hermanus film, Skoonheid/Beauty. “I believe Oliver chose to include “Sugar Man” in Moffie because it’s a song about yearning to escape; a haunting poem by a bewildered individual” – much like the experience of the film’s main character, Nicholas (Kai Luke Brümmer). “The song needed a special voice to convey such frailty and longing.” That voice, Ludikbelieves, belongs to Thompson.
“When I first heard Rebekah’s voice it immediately hit me that there is a darker edge, a hearkening back to the famous altos of the 80s,” says Ludik. “It struck me as the perfect counterpart for what I wanted to do with Moffie’srendition of ‘Sugar Man’.”
Since the release of the film’s trailer – which features Thompson and Ludik’s stripped-down version of the song – in December last year, “audiences around the world have been asking where they can get a copy of this version,” Hermanus says of the reasoning behind the release. “It’s really wonderful that we get to share it with the world today.”
Ludik adds: “Of the variety of reasons for releasing the track, I feel most strongly about its gritty undertones – a feeling that can take you back to the 80s-era in which the song was so popular to begin with. The song isn’t sugary sweet in our interpretation, and I think it’s important to take note of the darker undercurrent of our most sentimental memories.”