sugar, directed by anna boden and ryan fleck (female director alert!!!!), is a feature film but could have been a documentary about the meat market that thrives on the dominican republic-US border and draws poor young men to the great country to the north with a hope and a prayer of hitting it big in the baseball world. from what i understood (and from listening to a great fresh air interview with the directors), possibly talented kids get signed for a pittance while they are still in the DR. there, they participate in rigorous baseball camps where they can end up being parked for as long as a couple of years. these camps are owned by big US teams, which send regular scouts to see how the chickies are doing. occasionally, some talented young guy gets picked and sent to the minors. there, he either makes it or he crashes.
clearly, the pressure is tremendous. for these young DR boys, this is a family ticket out of poverty. but it’s not just that. they are housed with volunteer families for whom baseball is a matter of personal and community pride, and whose weight of expectation they must also shoulder. lost in the mid-country towns whose language they don’t understand and whose culture they understand even less, these kids go through intense loneliness, dislocation, and all the trauma that accrues to being treated as a thing rather than a person. basically, the kids with the biggest nerves are the ones who make it.
the protagonist, miguel santos aka sugar, does not have nerves of steel. he is brooding, sensitive, gentle, not particularly sociable, and definitely lost.
i found it interesting, sad, and also heartening to see at the end that there is this whole community of shafted caribbean players who have created their own amateur league in nyc and recreated a community of their own. it reminded me of the cricket community portrayed in the novel Netherland. also, in new york, thanks santa maria, people speak spanish.
not a masterpiece, but good enough. maybe a bit slow at points, but sugar’s face is lovely to look at, so full of earnestness and pain and endurance, and boden and fleck make good use of this (i think non-professional) young actor to alert us to yet another form of human trafficking.
anyone else has seen this?