Malik Bendjelloul is best known to the general public as the director of the Oscar-winning documentary Searching For Sugar Man. To those who actually knew him, however, he was a nice, determined guy with a passionate spirit and a zest for life. Many were hopeful, after a few more brilliant documentaries, that the rest of the world might get to know that fun-loving guy too, but sadly, that’s never going to happen. Bendjelloul was found dead this week. He was only 36.
What exactly happened is still unclear, but his brother told a local Swedish outlet that he took his own life following a "short depression". Beyond that, almost nothing is known, except that the family is devastated about what happened.
According to The Daily Mail, Bendjellou grew up as the son of a painter and a translator in Sweden. He went to school to become a journalist and later became an actor. He was beginning to make his name as a reporter when he decided to quit his job to travel around the world. At one point, he ended up in South America, and that’s when he got the idea for Searching For Sugar Man.
It took years to finish the documentary. The primary source of funding dried up at one point, and for some reason, the initial feedback to rough cuts was really bad. Fortunately, British producer Simon Chin eventually saw the promise hidden inside. With his help, the documentary was completed, and it took the film community by storm. It won a slew of trophies including an Academy Award and Bendielloul’s name quickly shot to the top of the wannabe director’s lists for numerous projects.
Life is a really complicated thing, however. It’s easier to think professional success and personal success go hand-in-hand, but the truth is that’s often not the case. Clearly, Bendielloul had some personal issues he was wrestling with and ultimately wasn’t able to overcome, but the way his life ended certainly won’t tarnish the incredible work he was able to accomplish or all of the people he was able to touch in person.
Cinema Blend’s sincerest well-wishes go out to Bendjelloul’s entire family, as well as his friends and all of those affected positively by his life. He will be missed.