Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden’s Sundance standout Sugar gets as much right about baseball as any movie I’ve ever seen. It gets the hum of the electric lights in the ozone-heavy summer air and the satisfying smack of a knuckle curve as it lands squarely in the catcher’s mitt. It exults in the zigzag poetry of the red-and-white-striped ball. Above all, it understands baseball as a crucible of the American dream—for Americans and for those who long to come to these shores. In telling the fictional story of a young Dominican pitcher (gifted newcomer Algenis Pérez Soto) during his first season on the roster of an MLB farm team, Sugar echoes the history of several generations of minority immigrant ballplayers, from Hiram Bithorn to Roberto Clemente to Sammy Sosa. It’s a gorgeous film—subtle, observant, full of life—yet the surprise isn’t how good it is but rather how true it rings. Fleck and Boden are a long way away here from the gritty Brooklyn verisimilitude of their previous Half Nelson, but Sugar is just as wise to the cheap inspiration of so many sports dramas as Half Nelson is to the pitfalls of heroic-schoolteacher minstrelsy. (Festival continues through Sun. April 20; see Web site for full schedule and details.) Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center, 104 17th Ave. S., 326-1088, $5-$7. 12:30 p.m. SCOTT FOUNDAS

Fri., April 18, 12:30 p.m., 2008

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