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2013 'Sugar Man' Oscar winning director Malik Bendjelloul dies

The Swedish winner of the 2013 Academy Award for the best documentary, Malik Bendjelloul, has died at the age of 36. He had experienced a rapid rise to fame with the acclaimed film "Searching for Sugar Man."

A Swedish police spokeswoman said Bendjelloul had died in Stockholm late on Tuesday, but gave no details about the circumstances other than that foul play was not suspected. On Wednesday, Bendjelloul's brother, Johar, told the Swedish daily Aftonbladet that the director, who had struggled with depression, had taken his own life.

"This terrible news has put us all in a state of shock," Swedish Film Institute spokesman Jan Goransson told the AP news agency. "Malik Bendjelloul was one of our most exciting film makers, which the Oscar award last year was a clear proof of," Goransson said.

Bendjelloul won last year's Academy Award for his film "Searching for Sugar Man" which documented the story of musician Sexto Rodriguez and two loyal South African fans who tracked him down. It was the first Swedish film to win an Oscar since Ingmar Bergman's "Fanny and Alexander" in 1984.

Born to a Swedish mother and Algerian father in the small southern town of Ystad, Bendjelloul moved to Stockholm as his career became established.

Intrigued by musician's life

He had worked as a culture reporter for Swedish public broadcaster SVT, but resigned to follow a dream of backpacking around the world. It was on a visit to Africa that he became fascinated by the story of Rodriguez, a US singer who disappeared from the music scene while unwittingly becoming a massive cult hit in Africa.

Rodriguez made two albums in the early 1970s, which proved flops in the US. He dropped out of the music industry and fell into a life of near-poverty for decades, but his music gained a cult global following.

In South Africa - where he was widely believed to have committed suicide - Rodriguez was said to have become "more famous than Elvis" among white liberals. Only after the end of apartheid - and the advent of the Internet - did they find out he was still alive.

After winning the Oscar, Bendjelloul had said he wanted to escape the hype of Hollywood and go on safari. He was believed to have been working on a film about a man who could communicate with elephants.

rc/jm (AP, ADP, dpa)