Both written and directed by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden (Half Nelson), Sugar follows the journey of Miguel Santos (Algenis Soto), a Dominican pitcher working towards a career in the big leagues and a quick way to pull his family out of poverty. After years of training at a Dominican recruiting academy, he’s finally drafted to a minor-league team in Iowa where he struggles to maintain his game, and to adjust to the impossibly foreign American culture.
Fleck and Boden were fiercely committed to maintaining the authenticity of Miguel’s story. Having done months of research in the Dominican Republic, these filmmakers were able to capture the reality of the journey of not only a young athlete, but of an immigrant. While the road is glamorous for the small fraction of Dominican players who dominate the American Major Leagues – what about the enormous percentage of the kids who don’t?
Making his acting debut, former Dominican baseball player Algenis Soto gives an effortlessly honest performance – you’re rooting for this kid from the second he hits the screen. But, as the story unfolds you see Miguel’s commitment to the game isn’t completely rooted in a love for baseball – but the indispensable need to make something of himself. Inheriting the role of sole financial provider for his family since his father’s death,the pressure to succeed multiplies when the well-being of his family depends on his performance on the mound.
This unconventional approach to an immigrants journey illustrates, and almost redefines, what it truly means chase the American dream. While his American teammates have college educations to fall back on, Miguel has no back up plan, no alternative. His injury halfway through his first season in Iowa serves as the wake up call that ultimately challenges him to reevaluate whether or not the dream he’s been so relentlessly chasing is the dream he actually wants.
Miguel’s story serves as almost the anti-Field of Dreams. These filmmakers weren’t trying to make another sports film about the talented, but helpless athlete who’s miraculously scouted by a Yankee’s recruiter, makes millions of dollars, and scores the cover of Sports Illustrated – and thank GOD. This incredibly relatable and honest tale ventures beyond the conventional, forcing the audience to consider what it means to struggle as an immigrant, athlete, and young adult.
GO SEE THIS MOVIE. It opens in select theatres this Friday (4/3)!