Bendjelloul was born into a Swedish-Algerian family in Ystad and was raised in nearby Ängelholm along with his older brother, TV and radio personality Johar Bendjelloul. Their mother, translator Veronica Schildt, came from a family of actors and directors. When Bendjelloul was 13, he appeared in the TV series Ebba And Didrik, which was directed by his uncle, Peter Schildt.
Instead of continuing in acting, Bendjelloul studied journalism. After graduating from Kalmar University (now Linnaeus University), he went to work for the Swedish public broadcaster SVT, producing segments on pop music.
It was through his work for the SVT program Kobra that Bendjelloul first came across the story of Sixto Rodriguez, a mysterious Detroit singer-songwriter whose two obscure albums had become cultural touchstones in South Africa. Bendjelloul poured his life savings into investigating Rodriguez’s story. The resulting film, Searching For Sugar Man, was a critical and popular success, winning Bendjelloul an Oscar and reviving Rodriguez’s career.
Details about the circumstances of Bendjelloul’s death remain scarce, though the newspaper Dagens Nyheter reports that police are not investigating, believing no criminal activity is suspected.
At the time of his death, Bendjelloul was working on his second film, a documentary about South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony.