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Dominican Get-together is a Big Hit in Miami

Dominican Get-together is a Big Hit in Miami

Dominican Get-together is a Big Hit in Miami
Miami, FL, March 23, 2012

G lobal Foundation for Democracy for Development (GFDD)’s initiative Dominican Get-Togethers is reaching out even further -a-field, and on March 21 headed south to Miami, Florida.

The GFDD Team was delighted to bring this well-received initiative to the city of Miami and Ms. Despotovic said she looks forward to developing more projects in the city commonly referred to as the “Capital of Latin America”.

Dominican Get-Togethers are part of GFDD’s mission to promote appreciation of Dominican culture and to create opportunities for discussions on contemporary issues relevant to Dominican society in the homeland and abroad. Every quarter, GFDD creates opportunities to come together and meet a prominent Dominican figure, enjoy a Dominican-themed movie, and engage in conversation on topics of importance to the Dominican community. The ongoing series has previously garnered the attention and support of the Dominican communities of New York City, New Jersey and Southern Philadelphia and all those interested in Dominican culture.

The popular event, which on this occasion was organized in collaboration with Miami Dade College, Wolfson Campus, the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Initiatives, the Dominican Republic Consulate in Miami and the Dominican Student Association, focused on the popular theme of baseball through a screening of acclaimed Dominican/US movie “Sugar” and included a special question and answer session with the lead protagonist of the film, Algenis Perez Soto.

Ms. Despotovic reiterated to the some 100 audience members that the selection of the movies that are used for our activities, are not only artistically sound, they also have to possess a human quality.

“Sugar,” is the moving portrait of Miguel “Sugar” Santos, a 19-year-old baseball prodigy struggling with the isolation and culture shock that come after he’s drafted into the minor leagues, placed in a small Iowa town without knowing English and yet remains desperate to succeed.  It is a well-known fact that the Dominican Republic is the country that contributes the greatest number of baseball players to the Major Leagues — but this movie revolves around what happens to the vast majority of those that don’t make it and what befalls them.  In the film, Sugar ultimately lands in New York, where life takes him on another path entirely.

The striking parallels between the script and Soto’s own experience are palpable as we learned during the Q and A. Like the movie in which he plays Miguel “Sugar” Santos, in real life, professional baseball was Soto’s dream. He grew up in Quisqueya, a suburb of San Pedro de Macoris, home to many a famous baseball player including Sammy Sosa, George Bell, Rico Carty and Julio Franco.

The film’s directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, discovered Soto playing baseball with friends, and interviewed him for the role. He was one of about 500 actors interviewed for the part.

He played semi-professional baseball for three years in the hopes of being discovered, usually playing shortstop or second base.  However, when his baseball dreams were not realized, he went to work as a front desk clerk at a hotel in San Pedro. If the movie opportunity had not come along, it’s likely that he would have remained undiscovered on the island.

The charismatic actor lauded the Directors saying that making the film was an organic experience in that they spent a lot of time communicating and putting him at his ease. Aware that he and some of the locals had never acted before, they allowed them to amend the script and use colloquial speech to give the film an added layer of authenticity.

Pérez Soto’s life could have been much different had he not been plucked from obscurity, and said that the story is all too familiar in the DR and for many there is no fairy-tale ending.  He said the movie’s message to have education or a “Plan B” in place is very clear.  Fortunately, for Pérez Soto, the movie has changed his life – he has learnt English, met a lot of interesting people on his travels, and now feels prepared to take on more acting roles.

Soto knew little English until he prepared for and starred in the film, which was shot in the Dominican Republic, New York City, Arizona and Iowa. He had never pitched before and faced months of intense and grueling training to successfully pull off the part. Ironically, he had dreamed of visiting the US to play baseball but could have never imagined that he would do so as an actor whose character is playing baseball.

While he promotes the film, which originally opened to rave reviews in 2009, he recognizes that his life has taken a different and brighter path in the past three years and now he is permanently living in the US. He is currently doing a film short and is in talks with a Director at the NYC Film School about a movie project this fall.

The reception that followed the screening offered guests the opportunity to mingle with staff and special guests. Special thanks go to Isabel B. Palacio- Martinez, M.S.Career Specialist, Advisement & Career Services, Miami Dade College, Jane Ann Williams, Executive Director, International Education, Miami Dade College and Virgilio Garcia, Vice Consul, Dominican Consulate in Miami, for their partnership and collaboration.



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