DIRECTED BY RYAN FLECK & ANNA BODEN
STARRING: ALGENIS PEREZ SOTO, RAYNIEL RUFINO, ELLARY PORTERFIELD
The moment I was done with watching ‘Sugar’, I knew I wouldn’t be able to say too much about it except that it was a wonderful film. And I also knew I’d be able to justify that.
‘Sugar’ is from the Dominican Republic. Sugar is not American, and ‘Sugar’ endlessly illustrates that to the viewer. The eyes are fresh, they don’t see what they usually see and the effect is that of an alien who is still working on getting used to the place. Sugar (Algenis Perez Soto) is the alien, Jorge is one somewhat lesser. Sugar is a heck of a pitcher, Jorge sketches to wriggle out of a knee injury and that’s when I was able to place the film. Not an ‘against the odds’ venture, definitely not ‘Remember the Titans’ or a ‘Glory Road’, because by the time that I was shown, I was sure that this dark horse is destined to stay so. And yet, the end comes up to be a surprise for it defies believability, helps strikes some awe.
The task of casting one who spoke a little to no English wouldn’t have been half as difficult as writing him in, although Algenis Perez Soto fits the role from shoulder-frame to the cut of his butt. Sugar is not introverted; it’s not a ‘lost in translation’ either and yet there are sequences to suggest the opposite (like the end-of-match interview). There are a thousand things waiting to spill out without means for the same, and that makes it a wait until there’s a water-dispenser in the way. But everything is visible, everything is perfectly clear, inclusive of the way ahead, but there’s really nothing that can be done about it. Not by Sugar, not by Jorge; not by Ryan Fleck, not by you. Reality is their movie-screen: they simply can’t get to the other side of it, and the fact that Sugar is about my age (a couple of years in between) made me want to.
I remember the illustrious scene in the beginning of ‘Jerry Maguire’ that made me think “now, here’s a film that gets down to the issues!”; ‘Glory Road’ had me feel that better. ‘Sugar’ is not one that discusses the issues: it shows them – something not uncharacteristic of Fleck and Boden, as observed from their masterful ‘Half Nelson’. Everything as it is, nothing said that ought only to be implied, ‘Sugar’ steps out of the screen, walks about and takes you around on this self-discovering endeavour that could potentially help project a country of theirs that even Americans won’t have seen before. A mission statement and an actual triumph, it prints in bold the fact that its makers don’t really believe in the spike curves they talk about, and that Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden are here to deal direct.
And they do it with jerseys – not captioned tees.