By Kim Voynar (originally published during the 2008 Sundance Film Festival)
Following up their critically acclaimed film Half Nelson, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have their newest film, Sugar, at Sundance this year. Boden and Fleck have quite the knack for tackling subjects most people wouldn't think of making a film about (a crack-addicted middle-school teacher in Half Nelson, a young baseball star from the Dominican Republic in Sugar) and making insightful, compelling films about them. This time around, Boden and Fleck take us to the fictional Kansas City Knight's baseball academy in the Dominican Republic, where we meet Miguel "Sugar" Santos (Algenis Perez Soto), a hotshot young pitcher who was signed to train for the league at the tender age of 16.
The pressure on the kids at the baseball academy is tremendous. While it offers the few who do make it to the top a chance to succeed professionally and financially beyond their wildest dreams, those who don't make the cut are chewed up and spit out by the organization with all the emotional involvement of a stockbroker buying and selling one stock versus another.