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Report: Director Bendjelloul committed suicide

STOCKHOLM (AP) - Malik Bendjelloul, director of the acclaimed "Searching for Sugar Man" documentary, was widely known for his enthusiasm, kindness and high spirits - so the news Wednesday that he had taken his own life shocked colleagues around the world.

Bendjelloul's brother Johar Bendjelloul told Swedish daily Aftonbladet that his 36-year-old younger brother committed suicide Tuesday after struggling with depression for a short period.

"Life is not always simple," Johar Bendjelloul was quoted as saying, adding that receiving the message that his brother had committed suicide was the worst thing he had ever experienced.

"I don't know how to handle it. I don't know," he said.

Bendjelloul rose to international fame in 2013 when his debut feature film, "Searching for Sugar Man," won an Oscar for best documentary. The film tells the story of how Detroit-based singer-songwriter Sixto Rodriguez, who had flopped in the United States, became a superstar in apartheid-era South Africa without knowing about it.

British film producer Simon Chinn, who produced "Searching for Sugar Man" together with Bendjelloul, said he was shocked and deeply saddened by the news of his friend's passing.

"It seems so unbelievable," Chinn told The Associated Press over the telephone. "I saw him two weeks ago in London. He was so full of life, hope and optimism and happiness, and looking forward to the future and future collaborations. We were talking about working together and talking about specific ideas, so the idea that he is no longer is just too hard to process."

The soft-spoken Bendjelloul worked as a reporter for Sweden's public broadcaster SVT before resigning to backpack around the world. He got the idea for "Searching for Sugar Man" during one of his trips, but it would take him more than four years to complete the film.

SVT's culture chief Eva Beckman said his death was incomprehensible.

"One always says it is unbelievable when a young person dies, or when anybody dies, but it is even more unbelievable with Malik," she said Wednesday. "Malik was simply such an incredibly alive person."

Beckman also praised Bendjelloul's strong storytelling skills and his willingness to experiment with new formats.

"What really set him apart from everybody else was his passion for storytelling. He was a fantastic storyteller," she said.

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mamaava May 14 2014 at 10:56 AM

This commentary was SUCH a wonderful one! My hubby and I lived in Detroit when it was a live, vibrant, beautiful city in the 50s through 60's...this commentary was amazing!! So sad that a gentle, soft spoken, kind person, would have such a demon to live with...depression. After writing the commentary on the singer who didn't know he was an idol in another country after living in "third world Detroit" for most of his life, was a touching and probably very much a parallel of his own life. So sad. I feel for those who knew him and were left behind without his gentle ways... life needs MORE like him.

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Spud May 14 2014 at 12:06 PM

It saddens me to see these kinds of stories and the majority of those involved say they never knew, never saw it coming. Likely they didn't. We who suffer from depression learn at very early ages to hide it so the "normals" don't see it because all too often, we find that we're judged and compared to the worst of the worst you see on the news. And fyi, no we're not all like that, not by a long shot. The media only chooses to focus on those poor souls. Worse yet, we're handed the same tired old sayings, "everyone gets depressed now and then, you just pull yourself up by your bootstraps and carry on." No actually, we don't. I've actually had people tell me to my face that as far as they're concerned depression is something you catch, like a cold or the flu. It's quite appalling and sad that the "normals" would rather discuss ANYTHING, race, religion, politics, etc, rather than discuss and learn about depression and mental illness.

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1 reply
annette.testa Spud May 14 2014 at 2:49 PM

I think we really DO have to take charge of our mental illness, and as it were, pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps - but as you know, I'm sure, and I know, it is a laborious and long process to pull oneself up by one's own bootstraps! Sometimes we give up, it is so intensely hard! And we need tons of HELP! We need someone else pulling one strap while we are pulling the other. Anyone, even depressed people can find meaning and purpose in life, and with patience, humor, a lot of humor, we can learn to cope with both failure and victory.

Hang in there and be kind to yourself - some of us are cursed/blessed with this condition as a lifelong obstacle to be coped with - that is the pattern of our lives - John Nash, great mathematician at Princeton managed his schizophrenia by owning it, and he found self-management the best therapy.

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mstienlee May 14 2014 at 12:06 PM

Jesus Christ is the Way, Truth and Life! Suicide is NOT!

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3 replies
Margaret May 14 2014 at 12:06 PM

I, too, thought of AIDS but reconsidered that. About fifteen years ago I was working at a private clinic. One of the female patients who I learned was married to a nice guy and had two wonderful teenage children. She'd been a school teacher for almost twenty years. I hadn't seen her in 6-8 months when in she came in for an exam. This woman was almost unrecognizable. She was down to under a hundred pounds from about one-seventy, looked like the crypt keeper and carried a bottle of liquid diet supplement with her because she couldn't eat. I didn't know what to say to her-I thought she had cancer. When she left, I asked the doctor what was wrong with her. He said she had lost her job and was in a deep depression-she couldn't deal with it. I couldn't believe that anyone could get so depressed-even when it seemed they had everything. Well, she died about a year and a half later-starved to death. Depression is nothing to joke about, it can be devastating.

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mrcole1018 May 14 2014 at 12:07 PM

may god bless him. we dont know what people go through in life regardless of there wealth. be kind for everyone is fighting a hard battle. r.i.p to the homie

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1 reply
ROSE mrcole1018 May 14 2014 at 12:57 PM

mrcode....you are so right....try to smile at EVERYONE you see while out on the street or anywhere else for we do NOT know exactly how they are feeling...Your kind smile may just SAVE a life.

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boricuainmotion May 14 2014 at 12:11 PM

"The loneliest moment in life is when you have just experienced that which you have thought would deliver the ultimate and it has let you down. What is it that really gives life meaning? When you get to the top, there is nothing there...why do I feel so empty? The pleasure of reaching the top suddenly turns into the pain of disappointment when you realize that there is nothing more to reach".."Is this all there is to life?"......This could be a sign of depression with suicidal tendencies in some people..

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tessdodge May 14 2014 at 12:17 PM

I feel so sorry for Malik Bendjelloul and his family and friends. Perhaps it is too much to speculate, however he may of had Bi-Polar. I say this because he was 100 percent excited and happy two weeks ago and then 100 percent depressed and then died. I know from experience about this, the extreme highs and lows. However it is a medical condition, and can be managed quite well on medication. It is such a shame that it appears that he was not seeking help and was suffering so much. No one needs to suffer that much. So sorry for all who knew this brilliant person.

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justanindividual May 14 2014 at 12:30 PM

I hope after reading about this tragedy, and the comments, people suffering from depression will realize the utter devastation their death will cause loved ones.

Maybe they will try to hang in there longer, instead of taking what seems to be an 'easy' way out. Suicide is a permanent solution to a debilitating but temporary disease.

Truly, there IS treatment, therapy and religious faith for depression -- it doesn't have to end this way. I deeply empathize with those who feel there's no solution other than death.

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el21141 May 14 2014 at 12:47 PM

So sad....depression is like being in a large hole and unable to climb out. It is devastating to the indivdual and of coarse the family.

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Jim May 14 2014 at 12:51 PM

sad when someone so young just gives up.

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