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More than a sports film: Sugar explores the American Dream, competitiveness and simple human values.

Someone asks why he has the name ‘Sugar’. His friends josh him – he’s too fond of puddings. He tells them it’s because he throws such a sweet curve ball. Sugar is pretty confident, but not at all arrogant. He knows he has talent, and he’s on course, signed up by the Kansas City Knights academy.

There's a long way to go. Sugar is Dominican and the academy is on the island. Returning home at the weekend from the neat manicured grounds, he’s already a celebrity in his village – kids crowd him for unwanted baseballs or gloves. With his signing-on fee he’s built a bigger kitchen for his family and a separate room for his grandma. The next step is the big one – will the Knights sign him up to pitch for one of their minor league affiliate teams in the US?

Sugar is more than a sports film with convincing on-the-field action. It’s about the experience of a migrant who is coming of age. It’s about the American Dream and competitiveness and simple human values. There’s a lovely scene where a worldly-wise waitress shows him what scrambled eggs are so he can order more than toast, the only item on the menu that he knows the word for. 

The non-professional cast, many with a background in minor-league baseball, is very good, especially Algenis Pérez Soto as Sugar. The script is nigglingly unclear at a key point in the story but the film is ambitious, convincingly reaches beyond baseball, and has great spirit and humanity.


New Internationalist issue 423 magazine cover This article is from the June 2009 issue of New Internationalist.
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