Hollywood - "Searching for Sugar Man," about a singer whose musical star faded without a trace until he was rediscovered in South Africa, won the best documentary feature Oscar on Sunday.
The film tells the story of Sixto Rodriguez, who made two albums in the early 1970s but then quit music -- and who knows nothing about his fame on another continent.
The documentary was made by first-time director Malik Bendjelloul, who first discovered Rodriguez while travelling for six months in Africa in 2006, and was fascinated by his story.
The award was accepted by Bendjelloul and producer Craig Bartholomew Strydom, who explained why Rodriguez did not attend the Oscars show at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
"He didn't want to take any of the credit himself. That just about says everything about that man and his story that you want to know," he said.
Bendjelloul said he learned that Rodriguez was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1942, but his musical career ended almost before it began, while all other stars around him were making musical history in Motown.
But while his records failed to take off at home, a bootleg copy somehow made it to South Africa, where it struck a chord with progressive young whites, exasperated with the apartheid system.
His success there was such that, given the fact that the artist himself was not around, bizarre stories began to emerge about him, including one that claimed that he had committed suicide by setting himself alight on stage.
The other nominees Sunday night were "5 Broken Cameras," "The Gatekeepers," "How to Survive a Plague" and "The Invisible War."
The voting process for the documentary category underwent an overhaul this year intended to limit the nomination of obscure films, and ensure that a larger group of documentary filmmakers winnowed the nominees.
The 85th Academy Awards are airing live from the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles with host Seth MacFarlane. - Sapa-AP, AFP