Sugar (2008) - Made in 2008, but playing this year Sugar is the story of Miguel "Sugar" Santos (Algenis Perez Soto), a Dominican baseball player in the Kansas City Royals minor league system. The story follows Sugar from his humble roots to an Iowa minor league team and onto NY city. The story was compelling enough relaying the machine that is Dominican baseball. Players are plucked before they graduate high school to attend baseball school. They are worked and worked and if not high enough quality dumped back into the poverty of their home towns. The players see baseball as a way to move their families into a better life and so the players and families see it as a real opportunity.
Sugar raises from the Dominican camp to sign and play in Iowa for a single A team. He is put up with a family, Earl (Richard Bull)and Helen Higgins (Ann Whitney) entering a world where he does not know the language so the simplest things are difficult. The directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck do a nice job of showing how alien Iowa is to Sugar. I thought it was a nice touch to stop the subtitling when Sugar was telling Anne Higgins (Ellary Porterfield) the story of his scar in Spanish. We get to share the her disorientation with not knowing the language.
Sugar after some initial success begins to have trouble and at the same time sees how the system chews up and spits out players. His friend Jorge Ramirez (Rayneil Rufino) is cut loose while fighting through an injury. When sugar is injured he decides to leave the team before they cut him. He heads to NY City following Jorge. Again the direction is great here. Since the city has a large Dominican and immigrant population Sugar walks into a world where he fits in. The rest of the movie is about Sugar struggling to find a new balance in NYC. Ending with him playing city baseball with Jorge and many other former minor league players.
The messages about the baseball machine was a bit cliche at times but Sugar's story was compelling and I enjoyed the movie even with its slower pace.