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  • What's with the low ratings for this movie? I saw this at the Toronto Film Festival, and people loved it. Is it that some audiences wanted a regular sports movie, with everything leading up to the big game? This follows Dominican ball players and their dreams of making it to the bigs. We go from the Dominican to small town Iowa, then to New York City in a movie that's pitch perfect the whole way. And it got everything right, from how small towns in America watch these young guys grow and progress, to how they're treated like animals when they face injuries or setbacks.

    The actors are mostly unknowns, and they give the movie a documentary feel. I especially loved the old couple that takes one ball player in every year, and the minor league baseball manager, who is portrayed very fairly as a guy who pushes his players, but wants to see them make it.

    This movie is a home run, pardon the pun, because it transcends the sports genre and becomes a movie about finding one's self worth, no matter where your career path takes you.

    I believe that if you want something more from a sports movie than being just a past-time, you'll find it in "Sugar", from the team who directed "Half Nelson", another movie that was more concerned with characters and self-worth over silly plot requirements.

    To the low scorers out there I would say don't judge a movie for what it's not, and really look at what it is. Because this is a special movie that never goes wrong.
  • "Sugar" is simply one of the best sports movies ever and it does so avoiding every sports movies cliché ever made. The story of the main character is simply a composite of the story of the majority of people who go to play the game professionally. Not only that, but also reflects the story of the immigrant who comes to America pursuing a dream.

    Spoken mostly in Spanish, the movie almost qualifies as a foreign language film. The filmmakers do an excellent job capturing the contrast in atmosphere of the Dominican Republic -a poor country, rich in happiness- to the heartland of America, and back to the Bronx -a Dominican stronghold outside of the island, also stricken by poverty.

    As in "Friday Night Lights" you can feel the constant stress these young players endure to make it big. It's every bit as tense and if you like baseball, and are interested a little bit about these foreign superstars now playing the game, this movie is going to be a treat.

    One of the best films of 2009.
  • Sugar is an important Hispanic film. And yes, two Americans made it, Fleck and Boden, but they do so without compromise, without an agenda, and without patronising - and what we get IS an Hispanic film - it is not a film about America, it really is a superb Hispanic (Spanish in America) perspective - and it just blew me away. 100% convincing, valid, justified - and simply a great film.

    The story of the baseball player Sugar, played with consummate skill by Soto, has all the elements of a good sports movie plus the added dimension of a very well thought through arc and development.

    This is without a doubt one of the better films of the year; it captures both baseball and the alienation of the Hispanic experience in the US with alacrity and a light touch. The characters have real depth and emphasis is placed on the internal rather than simply the external.

    Strongly recommended as a breakthrough film for Hispanic film in the US, both in the quality of the story and acting and for excellence in film making.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Did you ever watch a movie and think, "Eh, this is okay but nothing great" and then, when it was over, you said, " "Wow, that was really good!?" That's "Sugar," a film you may not quite appreciate how good it is until it's over, and then you think about it for awhile.

    What made it so good, I thought, was the amazing realism with the dialog. If I hadn't read that this was movie with actors, I would have sworn I was watching a documentary.

    We follow a young guy from the Dominican Republic about 19 who is hoping to become a Major League baseball player. If you follow baseball, you already know there are a lot of good players from the Dominican. "Miguel 'Sugar' Santos," played by first-time actor Algenis Perez Soto is a pitcher in the Kansas City organization, but most of the baseball in seen in a small town in Iowa, where Santos is assigned to play Class A ball as his first stepping stone to the Major Leagues. In one scene, I saw a sign on a business that said "Davenport" and the ending credits list Quad Cities as a place of filming. It's in Eastern Iowa right on the Mississippi River.

    In the last 40 minutes, the film takes place in New York City as our ballplayer gets discouraged and takes a bus to The Big Apple to see his friend and to see Yankee Stadium, where he has dreams of playing. This film does not have the normal successful-happy ending, and that makes it all the more realistic. It's not a sad ending, either, as our hero makes do with what he has and gets help from some nice people....and simply gets on with his life and plays baseball simply for the joy of it on weekends.

    The best part of this film, I thought, was the realistic dialog that went with that realistic story. Everybody from the ballplayers, to the Higgins family in Iowa who housed "Santos," to the Iowa manager and the all the folks he met in New York City all sounded like the real deal. This movie does not have the feel of something made up; it looks and sounds very authentic.

    Although made for an Hispanic audience, with most of the language in Spanish, it also was for North Americans, to open our eyes what it's like for all these Latin American players who come to the states to play professional baseball and can't speak English. This is baseball's version of "Lost In Translation."

    Yes, the story has a few flaws and it's slow at times, but its definitely worth watching and can lead to some interesting discussions.
  • ..........................................................from Pasto,Colombia...Via: L.A. CA., CALI, COLOMBIA....and ORLANDO, FL

    More often than not, baseball stories are focused on the guy who manages to get all the way to the Majors. Sometimes we can lose sight of the fact that for every spot filled on a major league roster, there are scores, if not hundreds, of players who get sidelined somewhere along the way in their quest to make it to the big leagues! You don't have to like Baseball to enjoy SUGAR, but if you do, you're likely to enjoy it all the more. You have to give HBO films credit....Gutsy move to make a baseball movie that...

    A) Is about 70% in Spanish

    B) Manages to make the viewer empathize with the isolation & culture clash experienced by someone who arrives here not speaking any English and....

    C) Morphs completely into a different movie genre! Algenis Perez Soto plays SUGAR. I'd venture a guess that more likely, he IS SUGAR! IMDb PRO lists this as his only acting gig, ever. Apparently, he is undecided as to whether or not to continue his career in acting.

    Amazingly, Mr. Perez's contact E-mail address also appears. Here it is: algenisperez@gmail.com (Hope that you find the address Helpful!) SUGAR also boasts some great Dominican Merengue music; new, exotic third-world locations; and an on-screen collision between Dominican and Mid-Western Iowan cultures...Quite fascinating to watch!

    9*...ENJOY/DISFRUTELA!

    Any comments, questions or observations, in English o en Español, are most welcome!
  • The success of Latin ball players like Roberto Clemente, Juan Marichal, and Orlando Cepeda are legend but we never hear about the hundreds that fail, those who get lost in the system or are simply unable to handle the pressure of exorbitant signing bonuses or less than welcoming small town environments. In Sugar, writer-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, whose film Half Nelson from 2006 won numerous awards, have created a film about the problems faced by young Latinos in attempting to make the jump from the comforts of their home town environment to the major leagues. It is not just a movie about baseball but about what is important in life.

    20-year-old Miguel Santos (Algenis Perez Soto) is nicknamed Sugar - he says because he is sweet on the ladies but others have different opinions. Sugar is a pitcher at an American baseball training academy in the Dominican Republic whose recently developed knuckle curve ball puts him ahead of the pack. He is the idol of his family and the children in his home town but must compete with hundreds of others like himself for an invitation to a minor league Spring Training camp. Though the baseball academy attempts to teach the fundamentals of the English language, all the players seem to remember is "home run", "foul ball", "I got it", and the words to "Take Me Out to the Ball Game".

    Given his gifts, Sugar is invited to spring training with the fictional Kansas City Knights in Phoenix, Arizona. Eventually assigned to a Single-A farm team in Bridgetown, Iowa, he is light years away from his comfort zone. When he first sees his posted assignment to Bridgetown, Ia. he asks "where the heck is Ia (ee-ay)"? Sugar boards with a Midwestern farm family that has taken in Latino players in the past, but the adjustment is difficult. Sugar does what is expected - attends church, eats foods he is unfamiliar with, and says little but his only companion is Jorge (Rayniel Rufino), a fellow Dominican on the team who has remained stuck in Single-A ball because of an injury that refuses to heal.

    Soon his problem with language and customs begin to take their toll. He encounters racial slurs at a local nightclub and is confused when he receives mixed signals from the family's ultra religious teenage daughter Anne (Ellary Porterfield). When he is slow to recover from a leg injury sustained in covering first on a ground ball, his pitching skills begin to suffer as well. One scene highlights his sense of dislocation as he tries to make his way through a massive entertainment complex filled with flashing lights, video game machines, and bowling alleys. To try to regain his pitching form, he takes steroids but it only makes his sense of disorientation worse.

    His manager (Johnny Marx) is patient but he is paid to produce results and his sensitivity to Sugar's situation only goes so far. When Sugar asks teammate Brad (Andre Holland) what he would do if he could no longer play baseball and learns that Brad studied history in college, he begins to rethink exactly what he wants to do with his life. After Jorge heads for New York after being let go, the film moves in an unexpected direction, but never loses its intelligence and sensitivity. Soto is a captivating presence in his first acting role and the fact that he is also a skilled amateur baseball player gives the baseball scenes an electric authenticity. While Boden and Fleck show their love of the game, they do not hide their disdain for its exploitative aspects. No clichéd sports success story, Sugar is sweet and goes down easy but leaves a pungent aftertaste.
  • Baseball movies are often deemed cliché in today's world of cinema. You have a team or a player the film focuses around, they're usually underdogs or feel good stories, they have an improbable season and the end result is usually a championship for the team, or a life altering moment for a player. The movie, Sugar goes completely against this modern day norm.

    As a baseball movie, Sugar won't stand-alone. What does set it aside is the cultural quantum leap the main character endures. The films main character, Miguel Santos, whose nickname is the movies namesake, is the hero of his small, Dominican Republican village, as a pitcher with lively arm, an ideal build, and terrific upside. He receives mounting pressure from his family and the community to become the next Dominican baseball star, and eventually gets his shot. It's a reminder for every Sammy Sosa and Pedro Martinez who makes it from the Dominican Republic; hundreds of others burn out and are never heard from again.

    It's the off the diamond aspects of the opportunity he gets that makes the movie an interesting character piece. Short, and seemingly innocuous scenes help build the movie, and show the struggle that Santos endures in his assimilation to Americanized life, which ultimately correlates to his performance on the field. As mentioned, as a baseball movie it goes away from the norm, Hollywood cookie cutter of a sports movie, but as an allegory of the struggle that millions of Latino baseball players go through, it couldn't be more spot on.

    For a person with virtually zero prior acting experience, Algenis Perez Soto gives a noble performance as the films protagonist. He's never really asked to go outside his main personality, which is stoic and monotonous, but he has a few moments where he breaks off, and his ability to act at emotional pinnacles are shown. Surely this won't be the end of his acting career, as he virtually won the acting lottery by randomly being selected for a lead in a semi-major motion picture. Most of the actors don't have enough of a part in the movie to shine, as no other character was given enough screen time to even be considered a strong supporting actor.

    The writing and story is thorough in its sports detail, which a baseballs junkie would enjoy, but the average moviegoer might not understand. The subplots in the movie like the love story and the conflicts surrounding the supporting characters lack substance. Those subplots, along with the characters involved in it seem to just disappear abruptly. The story is somewhat episodic, divided into a few large parts, with none of those parts supporting characters carrying on through the movie. As a whole, the movie takes on a slow pace, and sometimes struggles to keep the interest of the viewer.

    If you plan on seeing Sugar, don't go in expecting a team to pull in a superstar to save the day in the last second, or for the main character to pitch a World Series no-hitter, or you'll be disappointed. Mainly, don't go into the movie expecting a baseball movie, or you won't be satisfied. In the end, the movie lacks a punch that would make it stand out, but gets my praise for tackling a plot that usually will end with a cold dose of reality.

    Rating: 7/10
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is one of those movies that seem to fall between the cracks. Little known, but one you'd hate to miss...especially if you like baseball. The best part of this film is the authenticity and the inspiration that comes from it. Miguel Santos(Algenis Perez Soto) is a 19-year old in the Dominican Republic, where baseball still reigns supreme. Miguel, nicknamed Sugar, is a gifted pitcher that throws a knuckle curve with power. Dreams of making it to America and the big leagues sometimes do come true for some. And when it happens it means a family actually has a chance of getting out of poverty.

    Sugar and many other hopefuls attend the Dominican's Kansas City Baseball Academy and with any luck can be called up to Minor League ball in the States. Sugar gets to make the trip to Kansas City's team in Burlington, Iowa. There he will struggle with the language, culture and pressure of having any degree of success to rescue his family.

    This poignant and very believable baseball movie also stars: Rayniel Rufino, Michael Gaston, Andre Holland, Ellary Porterfield and Ann Whitney.
  • If you are looking for another "sports" film, this isn't it. Sure, it's about Dominican baseball players trying to make it in the United States, and get some money for their families, just as African-Americans use the NBA to get out of the ghetto, but it is so much more.

    Baseball isn't the story here. It is just a backdrop. The story is immigration.

    It was funny watching Miguel 'Sugar' Santos (Algenis Perez Soto) put up with an Iowa farm family when he went to play "A" ball. They didn't speak Spanish, and he didn't speak English. The daughter (Ellary Porterfield) seemed interested, but couldn't take the big step.

    He left for New York when he felt his game go. He managed to find a new life. Not completely without baseball, but without making it to the majors. Life is like that. It's what happens when you make other plans.
  • Sugar is NOT a baseball movie, it is a MASTERPIECE about one man's journey I think this film will suffer from the perception that it is about baseball the same way Million Dollar Baby STILL takes a hit by being confused that the film is about boxing and THAT IS A SHAME!!!! Sugar is BRILLIANT on many different levels. The vignettes of humanity if seen by enough people will give this film the good word of mouth it deserves. It was my favorite film at Sundance. The story was about the struggle for success and the fight to make something of yourself in a land that you don't understand and doesn't understand you back. It's about humanity, alienation, exploitation and ultimately perseverance. It is a special story that is one of the best written films I have ever watched. Keep in mind, this film was written in English and then re-written in Spanish by Ryan Fleck and then Anna Boden. These 2 are going to be around for a long time and I hope their efforts come come close to what they made here. a masterpiece. I stood up and applauded at the end of the screening. All I ask is that people don't say "Oh this is about sports, I don't want to watch a sports movie" Give this film a chance and you will be touched by Sugar's magical journey.
  • If you have no knowledge of, or appreciation for, the sport of baseball, then I think you will likely not enjoy this film as much as those who do. It is more of a baseball movie than many such movies, such as "The Natural," since it plays almost like a documentary rather than the usual script of "talent, obstacles, ultimate fantastic success." I can imagine that the box office receipts for this in the United Kingdom would be about what they would be in the U.S. for a movie about cricket. In "Sugar" we follow Miguel "Sugar" Santos from a U.S. major league baseball training academy in the Dominican Republic to his move to a small city in Iowa to play minor league ball. We get to know Miguel's family and humble living conditions in the Dominican Republic and then the formidable difficulties he faces in being inserted into a foreign culture where he does not speak the language.

    I will never look at foreign-born baseball players the same way after having seen the discipline, arduous training, perseverance, and sacrifices they make to get where they are. And the pressure is ever-present--if you fail there are many others who can and will take your place.

    Casting the native Dominican non-actor Algenis Perez Soto as Miguel is a small stroke of genius. He had played some ball (as shortstop) but had to be taught how to pitch for this movie. Perez is such a natural both on and off the field that it's impossible not to be taken by him. He has a great ability to capture emotion with facial expressions. A lot of effort must have gone into the casting, since every role rings true.

    Sure, this film makes incisive comments about the immigrant experience in the United States, but, even if you are a baseball fan I think you will learn details you did not know about how the sport recruits many of its players and what they go through. Many are called, but few are chosen, and it's not necessarily clear sailing for the chosen.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Sugar was beautiful, heart-felt, and realistic. I loved the flow of the movie, showing Miguel "Sugar" Santos' journey, from his days in Dominican Republic to the U.S., struggling with the language barrier and his own identity while maintaining his passion for baseball. It felt I watched an actual documentary, witnessing Sugar's desire to succeed in the sport and becoming a "product" for the Minor Baseball League. Very compelling! Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck are fantastic once again with how the story was told and the care with research (back stories of real life ballplayers) to tell this story so perfectly. And the lead actor, Algenis Perez Soto was impressive, considering this was his 1st acting role. I highly recommended this movie!!
  • ferguson-626 April 2009
    Greetings again from the darkness. Filmed in quasi-documentary style, the film appears on the surface to be about the Latino dream of making it to the major leagues. Upon closer review, the family and friends of Sugar only ask "Are you going to the states?". The crux of the film lies not so much in the long odds of making it to the show, but moreso, simply escaping the homeland ... it's just that baseball is viewed as the quickest ticket out.

    The "Half Nelson" writer/director team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck score again with "Sugar". What really hit home with me was how many people miss out on their real chance because they just have a simple shortage of passion for their talent. When Sugar bashes the water cooler, it's not because he pitched poorly, but rather because he fears he will be shipped back home.

    There are many fine moments in this and the final act twist is not just terrific story telling, but fitting as well. It does what a final act should do ... connect the dots. Think back to the domino scene when one guy spouts that he once hit 98 in spring training. The recognition that he is back home playing dominoes is the real story. Good stuff.

    First time actor Algenis Perez Soto perfectly captures the charm and innocence of Sugar and finally the harsh reality of the situation. This is one to see.
  • Screened this film at its premiere during Sundance 2008. The main appeal for most coming to see this movie was to see what the team behind Half Nelsen could do on the second go around. And for the most part those who enjoy quality film-making will find many positives here, though this is a completely different film then Half. Much like Half Nelsen the cast feels authentic and the characters are very understated and come across with very true to life performances. The main issue with audience appreciation will hinge mostly on their interest in baseball. Serious baseball fans will most likely look differently at the Latin America ball players and the MLB system once they witness what is a very accurate portrait of the trials and tribulations of the foreign players. Sure most folks know about the great Latin players like Pedro, and David Ortiz, etc,, but do they know about players like Migual "Suger" Santos? The answer is probably not and I believe the filmmakers succeeded in creating a film that makes us think about what life is like for all those players we don't get to see under the bright lights and on the baseball cards. Its all very fascinating stuff for baseball fans to ponder and think about, those none baseball fans may find it slightly dull but with an open mind its still a beautiful portrait of a young mans journey to America.

    First off, the lead actor Algenis Perez Soto is fantastic, it is unbelievable how great his performance here is when you consider that he has absolutely no acting experience at all. They literally pulled this kid off a ball field in the Dominican and stuck him in front of a camera. The rest of the cast is great as well and similarly most are not trained actors since the makers or the film wanted authentic ballplayers. From whats been said this is most likely going to be a HBO release on TV and I think thats a great spot for this film as its definitely too small and too specific a subject for a wide release. I highly encourage baseball fans to check this out when they get the chance.
  • Sugar is a North American baseball epic--following Miguel "Sugar" Santos from his home in the Dominican Republic to spring training in Arizona, on to the minor leagues in Iowa, and . . . Algenis Soto, a Dominican baseball player who is also a superb actor, is captivating and compelling as Miguel--combining an easy-going smile with an intense glare. But the story is about much more than baseball--it is about immigration, language and cultural barriers, racism, and more than anything, Miguel's struggle to find himself. Brilliantly written and directed by the Half Nelson team Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the story provides the uplifting moments and emotions typical of sports stories but avoids clichés or predictable directions.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I liked the movie. The picture, atmosphere, and documentary-feel casting are great. And I kept liking it until its middle. And then I started thinking, what is going on there. Why does the main character behave the way he behaves? What does the movie want to teach me or tell me? I couldn't find answers to any of these questions, except that "you should be a good and strong man who runs away from a challenge". And I don't think that's an idea someone wants to take away. Moreover, the challenge is almost not there. Just some disturbances with no major psychological significance to a strong guy like the main character. So, if you want to watch a beautifully made movie about giving up and running away from a challenge, watch this one. Otherwise, you're risking to be as confused as I am.
  • Don't get me wrong. I am a Dominican living in Canada, and I have had the opportunity to watch most of the films made and released in the Dominican Republic. Some of them satisfactorily good, some merely passable, some unwatchable. But the common factor here is that, for some reason, the filmmakers haven't been able so far to give the themes in this movie a transcending universal appeal.

    In come Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden (the only film I have seen from them is HALF NELSON, for which Ryan Gosling as nominated for a Best Actor Oscar), who, by means of some interviews and notes of experiences from Dominican immigrants, were able to concoct a bittersweet drama which is nothing short of a love letter to us Dominicans, and our reality as immigrants and our die-hard passion for baseball.

    Despite some occasional shortcomings (like, for example, the "perfect" way Sugar's Dominican girlfriend speaks Spanish; I personally had a strong objection to this detail, since Dominicans, specially low-class ones, don't usually talk like that), the film is in all, very well achieved. You can see the genuine Dominican elements within; yet, this time around, they are there for absolutely anyone to feel, understand and even enjoy them. Other good thing was the effective way in which the film goes from briefly telling about life in our little third-world (yet warm and fun-loving) country without patronization, to a somehow exciting Sports drama, and then to a testament about the harsh reality of being an immigrant in a strange land.

    All the technical elements are effective and used to good effect: the non-intrusive music, the photography, the well-paced editing. And the performances are nuanced and grounded in reality. None of the Dominican actors becomes a cliché, which has been usually a dangerous thing. Newcomer Algenis Perez Soto makes a solid debut here; we root for him all the way. We can see his love for the game, as well as his underlying sense of befuddlement, amazement, sadness and occasional desperation. Also, more than worthy of mention are, in the supporting roles, Rayniel Rufino as fellow player Jorge; Kelvin Garcia as Salvador, who gets to become a key player in the plot; and, towards the end, Dominican singer Alina Vargas, in a very brief role as a restaurant attendant.

    In all, it is a personal joy to see that somebody was finally able, not only to make a good Dominican-oriented movie, but to also show the many good things we may have as a culture. Bravo, Mr. Fleck and Mr. Boden for your courageous effort!! 8/10.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Miguel "Sugar" Santos(Algenis Perez Soto) is a right-handed pitcher from the Dominican Republic. He never had the opportunity of a Stanford education like his American teammate Brad Johnson(Andre Holland), who has graduate school as a backup plan should a career in baseball not pan out. But here they both are, despite such disparate sociological backgrounds, on equal footing, temporary Iowaians in the clubhouse of the Class A affiliate for the Kansas City Swing, talking about their futures. "Sugar" shows how sports democratizes people, but still, differences remain. Without the luxury of a college education to fall back on, one would gauge Miguel's situation as a desperate one; it's Kansas City or bust, with the economical future of his family back in the Caribbean riding on that sweet knuckle curve he throws for strikes. He can't throw balls, right? Due to our western bias, we assume that Miguel is skillless, save for his ability to get batters out. In the very next scene, however, we learn this isn't true, as the pitching prospect fixes the drawer of his host family. Miguel's secret talent serves as the impetus for the film's unexpected divergence from the inspirational sports movie formula.

    Back at the Dominican Republic training facility, posted on a locker room wall, Miguel and the other aspiring prospects look at the list of names with their corresponding assignments, as spring training has come to a close. Anybody who follows professional baseball closely, understands the significance of Miguel being allowed to leapfrog Rookie ball and going directly to Class A. The kid has talent. Touted, but not highly so, as the filmmakers decided to portray a modestly talented player, not a phenom, to better represent the unglamorous world of minor league baseball, even more so than Ron Shelton's "Bull Durham", since the surefire can't miss prospect(Brad) is a minor character, soon shipped off to Double A. Stateside for the first time, Miguel experiences the sensory overload that comes from being confronted by the exotica of a strange land, made easier, initially, with the availability of native speaking teammates showing him the ropes. America can be confusing. In "Half Nelson", the filmmakers' previous effort, a middle school teacher(played by Ryan Gosling) introduces the concept of dialectics to his pupils. Dialectics abound in "Sugar" too, for instance, Miguel's meeting of his host couple's virginal granddaughter Anne(Ellary Potterfield), a devout Christian, so soon after his encounter with the compliant women from the pay-per-view adult films he watches at the motel room. At a youth group meeting, Anne says that "spiritual accomplishments are more important," which sets the stage for the film's overriding dialectic: sports as a religion versus sports as a game, once Miguel loses his religion and doesn't get on the team bus heading on out to their next destination.

    Church does nothing for Miguel. The Higgins(Earl and Helen, played by Richard Bull and Ann Whitney) are churchgoers. Even though the old couple are good people; they don't speak Spanish, a conspicuous and somewhat dubious distinction, since the old-timers have hosted so many Latin players. They're like missionaries. This language barrier between them becomes an issue after Miguel loses his native speaking buddies to promotions and roster cuts. After Miguel intentionally throws at an opposing player, causing an on-field melee, in the next scene, the slumping pitcher sits silently at the Higgins' dinner table like a disciplined child. Instead of words to explain his alienation, he cries, which earns a half-hug from Earl, who is, after all, a compassionate man, a good man, albeit an ignorant one. For Miguel, words are better; he's twenty, not twelve. With apologies to the novel "Shoeless Joe" by W.P. Kinsella, Iowa is not a "field of dreams" for Miguel; it's not the "heaven" as Ray(Kevin Costner) and his father deemed it in the Phil Alden Robinson movie. So Miguel goes to New York to become a carpenter's apprentice. He left the church, so to speak. Now that Miguel no longer has the cool cachet of professional ballplayer, "Sugar" challenges the audience to root for its protagonist outside the parameters of the "underdog" movie. Not only is Miguel a quitter, a notion that's antithetical to the genre, now he's just another illegal alien.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Sugar" is a poorly written and directed tale about a poorly educated Dominican immigrant who attempts to make it as a minor league baseball pitcher. Numerous clichés and racial stereotypes are presented, including a scene where Sugar is shown to be more concerned with owning a flashy white suit instead of working on his control problems.

    The movie is a "serious" attempt to comment on the difficulties that immigrants face in entering into American society, but all the film does is highlight Sugar's unwillingness to attempt to adapt to the rural Iowa farming community he finds himself in. Even after the only other Dominican player on the team is cut, Sugar makes little attempt to learn English or to study and embrace American culture, despite the fact that his only translator is gone from the team! Algenis Perez Soto wins the "Christopher Lambert Award for Stone Faced Acting," showing little in the way of genuine emotion save for the occasional look of pained confusion. His idea of "good acting" is to squint his eyes very tightly when his coach benches him after a bad game.

    Equally bad is the film's cinematography, shot in a shaky cam "pseudo documentary" style with washed out colors. The film is in desperate need of a up-tempo musical score to cover the many dull stretches.

    Strong recommendation to avoid.
  • I'm astounded at the great reviews for this movie. (BTW, some of the long reviews here recount in great detail the plot of the movie. Huh? Why do people do this? I don't need plot details, I need to know if the movie is well done and worth seeing). As I watched the movie (rented) I started calling out each of the predictable plot points to see if I could nail the exact number of seconds until they would appear. Ooohhh, the players enter a bar in rural Iowa and start dancing with some white girls (all absurdly gorgeous btw). Betcha can't guess what happens next! The whole movie is like this.

    This could have been a great movie. Why not spend some time really exploring what it is like to be a dark-skinned man who doesn't speak English trying to order breakfast in a rural Iowa café?! Let me get into his head, take me through the emotions, challenge me, make me think. Instead we get a brief movie-of-the-week formulaic version. Maybe I've just seen too many movies and I'm doomed...
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Miguel 'Sugar' Santos is a 19 year old Kansas City organization prospect in Dominican Republic. His father is dead and he's the great hope of the family. He spends his money to upgrade his family home. Everybody expects big things to come. He is sent to America and rises in the farm system. He stays with the Higgins and falls for their daughter Anne (Ellary Porterfield). His rise stalls when he's injured. He struggles and even tries performance drugs. Eventually he quits and leaves for New York.

    It's a nice slice of life. It's a great poverty stricken struggle in the baseball world. Algenis Perez Soto isn't really an actor which works in this case. The turn in the third act throws me off a little but it ends with a great scene. The unexpected turn also adds a sense of unpredictable reality. This is a great indie.
  • SUGAR, American, 2008, directed by Ryan Fleck/Anna Boden, USA; Viewed at CINEFEST, Miskolc, 2013.

    Dominican baseball star Miguel "Sugar" Santos is recruited to play in the U.S. minor- leagues but there's a lot more to this than baseball.

    This film treats Immigration, race relations, and, yes, baseball ~ after a fashion, with an xlnt non-professional black cast. These are Notes to an American friend on the most exotic film of the week seen with a surprisingly lengthy Q&A with the director that went on until near Midnight.

    The title is "SUGAR", the name of the hero, and this American indie qualifies as 'exotic' here on three grounds; (1) the subject is American baseball -- more exotic in Hungary than soccer or rugby is in the States, (2) not only baseball, but Minor League, Bush league baseball, and (3) the whole business seen through the eyes of black Spanish speaking players from the Dominican Republic!

    You'll probably never get to see it because it was released in 2008 as an HBO/American Film Showcase production and has not had any public circulation to speak of, but i'm just telling you about it because it was so off-the-wall weird -- especially turning up in a place called "Meesh-colts" in the Hungarian outback!

    The whole first half hour takes place in the Dominican Republic, which shares half of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola (Columbus landed there) with Haiti, the poorest country in the world -- and the language spoken was a dialect of Spanish so thick I had to read the Hungarian subtitles to follow it.

    The main guy Miguel "Sugar" Santos is a young talented pitcher who is spotted by an American baseball scout and picked up by one of the low level Kansas City farm teams. From there it segues to a small baseball town in Iowa where Sugar is assigned to a very proper church going Grace-before-dinner religious white family who are baseball fans -- to live with them and learn English. They have a squeaky clean blonde daughter who will start making him forget his true black love back home, and it goes on from there to something very different from the success stories we are conditioned to expect from sports minded films of this kind.

    No time for details here but I can tell you that it ends up in Porto Rican New York with numerous unexpected twists and turns. Basically a Spanish language film inhabited mostly by black non-actors, which gives it a kind of semi-documentary authenticity you would never get with somebody like Denzil Washington in the lead.

    A real one-of-a-kinder that raised many questions from an intelligent Hungarian gathering - - far more than I thought it would. But no bull -- a black baseball flick in the backwoods of Hungary is almost an event in itself. I wouldn't say that I loved this film but it was certainly worth sitting through and sticking around afterward merely for its uniqueness if nothing else. A great baseball film it was not, but as a problematic Caribbean immigration film it works on multiple levels. And as a Black film all it needed would be a couple of songs by Lena Horne to make it an instant classic.
  • In 'Sugar', writer and director duo Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have created a film that not only appeals to a wide audience but also plays on the heartstrings of American culture.

    The portrayal of The American Dream as seen through the eyes of an outsider is an incredible insight into the fragile nature of the world. Far away from home, with a bare knowledge of the language, Miguel 'Sugar' Santos is trying to make his baseball dream come true, not just for him but for his whole family.

    Although much of the film is subtitled, somehow this language barrier slips away and 'Sugar' becomes a mainstream American film, finally a foreign language film that appeals to the masses.

    Whether you're a redneck truck driver or a uptown lawyer, we can all relate to the character of Miguel, we can all understand the daily struggles of trying to make your way in life, of having a dream and fighting for it.

    Sugar is a film with real integrity and truth. It loses pace at times but that hardly seems to matter as Miguel Santos earns his place in the heart of the audience, a great performance from actor Algenis Perez Soto.

    A must watch film.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Sugar is the nickname for an aspiring Dominican ballplayer, Miguel Santos, played by newcomer Algeniz Perez Soto. We first meet Miguel in his hometown in the Dominican Republic, where he is sort of a legend due to his prowess as a star pitcher for the local baseball club. Everyone in the town looks up to these ballplayers with the expectation that they're all going to make it in professional baseball in the United States and bring home the bacon. Sugar is no exception and believes he's got what it takes to become a star professional baseball player. One is immediately impressed with the camaraderie amongst the aspiring ballplayers—they all seem to enjoy gently ribbing one another as to their ball playing abilities and obsession in making it to the big leagues.

    Miguel is good enough to be invited to spring training with the Kansas City Knights (a fictional name for the real life Kansas City Royals). The film's scenarists do an excellent job of depicting the culture shock when Sugar first arrives in the United States. First and foremost is the language barrier and Sugar must depend on his friend, Jorge, who he knows from back in DR, to translate for the Spanish speaking players (the players follow Jorge's lead when he orders French toast at a restaurant; later, a kindly waitress teaches Miguel the difference between 'scrambled' eggs and 'sunny side up'). Miguel does well enough to be promoted to Single A minor league team in a small town in Iowa.

    Miguel is placed with the Higgins family who have a history of taking in Dominican players in their home during their stint with this particular minor league baseball team. The Higgins are religious and Sugar ends up attending the Higgins' daughter's church youth group as well as actual church services. The father is the only family member who knows any Spanish at all but his skills are limited. I found it annoying that the rest of the family members (particularly the daughter) kept speaking English to Miguel knowing full well that he didn't know what she was saying. There was no attempt on the daughter's part (nor Miguel's) to break out a Spanish-English dictionary and at least try to communicate with the aid of at least a dictionary. Eventually, Miguel does pick up enough English to get by but it's made clear that until he learns enough of the language, he remains alienated during his sojourn in Iowa. Due to the culture clash, Miguel almost gets into big trouble when a group of locals at a bar start to pick a fight after Miguel is seen dancing with one of the local hotties.

    Miguel's friend, Jorge, is eventually cut from the team after his skills diminish due to the aggravation an old leg injury. Then Miguel sustains a knee injury and is sidelined for a few weeks. When he returns, his pitching skills also have diminished and he resorts to taking pills (steroids?) to enhance his performance. While successful for a couple of innings, by the midpoint of the game, Miguel beans an opposing batter and a fight ensues between both teams. While the fight is going on, Miguel appears to be in a complete daze, obviously unable to handle the drugs he's just put into his system. The manager then relegates Miguel to the bullpen, which only serves to intensify his depression.

    Some internet posters find it unbelievable that Miguel would so easily give up his baseball career after deciding to leave the team and take off to New York City. Not every aspiring ballplayer will have the same reaction. In Miguel's case, he not only realized that he wasn't good enough to make it in the big leagues, he was also put off by the way the team wasn't willing to be patient with his friend Jorge who, according to Miguel, "had worked so hard". Miguel also correctly assessed the situation that he would be cut from the team and didn't want to endure the humiliation of being told he was no longer wanted by them.

    The film's denouement highlights Miguel's travails in NYC where he struggles to find a job and tries to figure out what he wants to do with the rest of his life. Eventually, he takes a job as a busboy and becomes friends with the owner of a carpenter shop, who takes him in when he runs out of money which he was using to pay for a room at a flea bag hotel. Miguel's friend allows him to work at the shop for free where he builds a table which he plans to send to his mother back in DR. The final scene shows Miguel playing sandlot baseball with other Dominican ballplayers who gave up their dream of playing professional baseball. No longer feeling pressure to succeed in a 'career', Miguel now seems more content in his new life and can enjoy playing baseball simply for the fun of it.

    It's refreshing to see a film about an ordinary Hispanic guy who's not a criminal. There's been a tendency to focus more on the criminal behavior in the movies today involving Hispanic culture. Although 'Sugar' lacks a discernible antagonist, the focus is really on Miguel's internal arc, as he comes to grips with the fact that he really isn't cut out to be a ballplayer. The introverted Miguel isn't really much of a complex character and hence 'Sugar' will not be remembered for big dramatic scenes. But in its own quiet way, 'Sugar' ably reminds us that an aspiring ballplayer's 'Field of Dreams' does not always end up inside a major league ballpark.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This story is about a Dominican baseball player, Miguel 'Sugar' Santos. He was from a small city in the Dominican, and was lucky to be recruited to the U.S. Minor Leagues.

    Follow him as he experience many life-changing moments. Being a kid with small hope, he soon finds himself in a big city in a country so far from home, so far from his family, his safety net.

    Follow him as he make mistakes, and learn good lessons from it.

    Follow him as he begins to mature, to learn to take responsibilities, to bounce back from the downs, and to hold on the things dear to him.

    This film has six nominations, and considered one of the best sports film for 2008.

    The film is in English & Spanish. The DVD release of this film also includes subtitles for Spanish.

    I rate this film a ten for its ingenuity, and a different take from the usual sports film I've seen in 2008.
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