THERE IS nothing saccharine about Sugar, a film that traces the journey of fictional Dominican pitcher Miguel (Sugar) Santos as he tries to yank his family out of poverty with his killer curveball and major league aspirations. Filmmakers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson) interviewed scores of players and former prospects while researching the script, hired Venezuelan and Dominican translators to ensure precision in the dialects of the Spanish dialogue and auditioned 600 prospects for the title role. Their fastidiousness lends both authenticity and humanity to the film's exploration of the cultural disconnect that Latin prospects face. Boden and Fleck's diligence most noticeably pays off with their selection of Algenis Pérez Soto, a former aspiring pro and first-time actor, as Miguel. His performance has earned him grassroots support for an Oscar nomination. Dominican-born Red Sox slugger David Ortiz gave the film its ultimate endorsement when, after watching the movie, he said, "That's exactly how it is."
FERNANDO CALZADA, 2007/COURTESY OF SONY PICTURES CLASSICS