The American Film Institute recently released its selections for 2009’s top films, and to the surprise of many, Sugar, the baseball movie about a Dominican baseball prospect, directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, was on the list.
A recent article at bleacherreport.com says of Sugar that it “might just be the best baseball movie ever made. Maybe one of the best sports movies ever made.” They wax poetic about the film, and I quote:
Sugar is the story of pitcher Miguel “Sugar” Santos, who signs at age 16 with a fictional major league team for $15,000 while he’s at a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic.
Can you imagine an American hotshot getting signed for $15,000? Of course you can’t. That’s only enough to build half a house for Sugar’s mother in the Dominican. The character of Sugar is played by first time actor, Algenis Perez Soto. Soto is a decent baseball player in real life, as are most of the actors in the movie. For people who know baseball, it will be apparent that Soto can play—but he’s a shortstop not a pitcher, and he slings the ball like a shortstop. Somehow, though, this discrepancy lends even more credibility to Sugar’s struggle. He’s no other-worldly phenom, just a darn good pitcher who has one helluva spike curve.
The kid can pitch, and he does pretty well when he gets to the States, but we all know pretty well doesn’t cut it in pro sports.
This is the story of one guy’s baseball journey, sure, but the movie also sheds light on what it’s like for an immigrant who barely speaks English to get thrown into small town, mostly Protestant, white American life. It’s about isolation and fear. It’s about odds and sometimes not beating them. It’s also about finding out who you are and what you’re willing to put yourself through for the love of the game.
Not to mention how much you love the game—versus how much you love the idea of the game. It’s about the choices we’re all faced with in our lives.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down for dinner with Tom Efinger, who did the sound for Sugar, and he spoke eloquently about the challenges and pleasures of making such an excellent film. He also spoke of the travails of getting a movie produced outside of the studio system to be noticed by reviewers and distributors. I am sure he will be pleased by this recognition, which should be a sign of more honors to come.
For the bleacherreport.com article go to http://bleacherreport.com/articles/315517-a-spoonful-of-sugar-the-best-baseball-movie-ever
Here’s a video with clips of the ten films that made the AFI’s top ten list. You will see what excellent company Sugar landed in.