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Oscar-winning director Bendjelloul dies at 36

Swede, whose film "Searching for Sugar Man" won Oscar in 2013 for best documentary is thought to have committed suicide.

Last updated: 14 May 2014 11:52
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Bendjelloul finished his Oscar winning film using his smartphone when sponsors withdrew support [EPA]

Swedish film-maker Malik Bendjelloul, who shot to fame with his Oscar-winning documentary, "Searching for Sugar Man", has died aged 36.

Swedish police said the director had died in the capital Stockholm on Tuesday, and on Wednesday his brother said the former reporter had committed suicide.

Johar Bendjelloul told the newspaper, Aftonbladet, that Malik had been "depressed for a short period", the AFP news agency reported.

Bendjelloul's award in 2013 was the first time a Swedish film had won an Oscar since Ingmar Bergman's "Fanny and Alexander" in 1984.

"Searching for Sugar Man" tells the story of how US singer Sixto Rodriguez became a superstar in South Africa without knowing about it.

The film also won several other prizes, including a British BAFTA for best documentary and the Swedish Guldbagge award.

Bendjelloul came across the story about Rodriguez, who had disappeared from public life in the US but developed an unlikely cult following among white liberals in South Africa, during a trip to Cape Town.

Bendjelloul worked as a reporter for Sweden's public broadcaster SVT before resigning to backpack around the world.

He got the idea for his first feature film during one of his trips, but it would take him more than four years to complete the film.

The film almost failed to make it to the theatres after a sponsor said the movie was "lousy" and withdrew support. 

The director finished the movie by working odd jobs and filming its final scenes using a smartphone.

Modest but determined

Bendjelloul's death has come as a shock to many in the close-knit Swedish film community.

"Malik Bendjelloul was one of our most exciting film-makers, which the Oscar award last year was a clear proof of," said Swedish Film Institute spokesman, Jan Goransson, the AP news agency reported.

He said that Bendjelloul had been working on a new movie before his death but would not give any details.

Bendjelloul had previously said he escaped the Hollywood hype around him after the Oscar award by going on a safari and had been working on a film about a man who could communicate with elephants.

Swedish film critic Hynek Pallas, who travelled with Bendjelloul to Hollywood when he received the Oscar, described him as a modest, but very determined man.

"He had the strength of a marathon runner; to work on his film for so many years and sometimes without money," Pallas wrote.

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