Malik Bendjelloul, the Swedish film director who made the Oscar-winning music documentary Searching for Sugar Man, has died at the age of 36.

Police spokeswoman Pia Glenvik told the Associated Press that Bendjelloul died in Stockholm late on Tuesday. The police did not specify the cause of death and said no crime was suspected.

Searching for Sugar Man, which detailed the life and career of the American singer Sixto Rodriguez, won the Oscar for best documentary in 2013.

Bendjelloul grew up in central and southern Sweden and acted in the Swedish TV series Ebba and Didrik as a child during the 1990s. He studied journalism and media production at the Linnaeus University of Kalmar in southern Sweden and later worked as a reporter for the Swedish public broadcaster SVT.

He resigned from that job to travel the world and got the idea for Searching for Sugar Man during one of his trips.

Searching for Sugar Man, reviewed by Guardian Film

The film followed two South African journalists who set out to find what had become of Rodriguez. The film, structured like a mystery, sought to find Rodriguez who never achieved fame in his home country but had become a popular and influential folk icon in South Africa, completely unbeknownst to himself.

"We are so sad to hear of Malik Bendjelloul's passing," Sony Pictures Classics, the distributor of Searching for Sugar Man, said in a statement.

"Much like Rodriguez himself Malik was a genuine person who chased the world for stories to tell.

"He didn't chase fame, fortune or awards, although those accolades still found him as many others recognised his storytelling."

Searching for Sugar Man swept major awards from the US directors', producers' and writers' guilds, and also won audience and special jury awards at the Sundance film festival.

Bendjelloul was born in the town of Ystad in southern Sweden, about 34 miles east of Malmo, according to film database

He had also directed television documentaries about singers Elton John, Rod Stewart, Bjork and the German electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk, according to the Swedish Film Institute.

"Oh boy!" Bendjelloul exclaimed when he accepted his Oscar from Ben Affleck in 2013, proceeding to thank "one of the best singers ever, Rodriguez".

The film won other prizes including a British Bafta for best documentary and the Swedish Guldbagge award.

Bendjelloul came across details about Rodriguez during a trip to Cape Town and decided to tell his story. The Detroit construction worker's albums had flopped in the US in the 1970s and he disappeared from public life. But unbeknownst to him his records had developed a cult following in South Africa during the apartheid era, when boycotts isolated the country from the rest of the world. His music gained a strong following among white liberals who were inspired by his songs of protest about the Vietnam War, racial inequality, abuse of women and social issues.

South African fans came to believe that Rodriguez had died a bitter death but it was not until after the end of the apartheid regime and the advent of the internet that the truth was revealed. In the film, two South African fans find him living in obscurity and working on construction sites in Detroit, and bring him to South Africa for a triumphant concert tour.

"I had never heard anything close to this in terms of the emotional content and the spectacular way things evolved. My jaw just dropped," Bendjelloul told the Hollywood Reporter after winning the Oscar.

The documentary's Oscar led to yet another career rebirth for Rodriguez who has been touring major venues in the US and introducing American audiences to the songs he wrote four decades ago.

Bendjelloul later recalled that when the film was 90% finished, after he had been editing it for three years, the main sponsor said it was lousy and withdrew support.

At that stage he had already used up all his savings and borrowed money from friends, so he stopped working on the movie and took other jobs to make ends meet. In the end he completed the film by shooting the final parts with his smartphone and making his own animations.

Bendjelloul's death came as a shock to many in the close-knit Swedish film community. "This terrible news has put us all in a state of shock," Swedish Film Institute spokesman Jan Goransson told the Associated Press.

"Malik Bendjelloul was one of our most exciting film makers, which the Oscar award last year was a clear proof of."

Goransson said Bendjelloul had been working on a new movie before his death.

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

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

"He was an incredibly talented storyteller," Pallas wrote. "He had the strength of a marathon runner; to work on his film for so many years and sometimes without money, then you have a goal."

Bendjelloul is survived by his parents and brother Johar Bendjelloul. Funeral arrangements were not immediately known.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report