Sugar Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck

Sugar Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
In the "Making of" supplement included with the DVD, Anna Boden points out that having seen the rags-to-riches sports story time and again, she was far more interested in telling a more common and authentic tale of American immigration, perhaps one embedded more so in reality than self-aggrandizing wish fulfilment. In shooting on location in the Dominican, casting baseball players in lead roles, Boden and Fleck remain true to this promise, creating a film that is nothing if not sincere. Following 19-year-old Miguel "Sugar" Santos (Algenis Perez Soto), Sugar chronicles his move from a tightly knit Dominican community to the U.S., where he plays in the minor leagues, hoping to make it big someday in the majors. While hard work and baseball take up an appropriate amount of screen time, the majority of the narrative energy is expended in the quotidian, as Sugar struggles to fit into his new Iowa home, unable to speak the language or surpass certain cultural barriers. More overwhelming than this feeling of isolation, however, is the knowledge of potential failure and the effect that will have on his family back home, in addition to his life trajectory. While, indeed, Sugar's story is one of many, told with dignity and respect in this intelligently made and entirely relevant film, a limited overall narrative makes it occasionally draining to watch. Most of this comes from the casting of baseball players in lead roles, as they are convincing in physicality but not particularly nuanced in communicating emotional range on camera, forcing viewers to inject logical thoughts and feelings onto a blank canvas. Included with the DVD are the supplements "Play Beisbol! The Dominican Dream" and "Casting Sugar," where we see Algenis Perez Soto's original casting tape, and interviews with various successful baseball players who discuss their experiences in relation to the film. (Sony)