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The Price of Sugar

Oscar's Documentary Shortlist

COUNTRY: U.S.

DIRECTOR: Bill Haney

ABOUT THE FILMMAKER: The Boston-based entrepreneur heads Infante Sano, a charity that runs health care programs in Latin America. The director first met Father Christopher Hartley with the intention of supplying him with health care for his hospital — not with making a film. It was the priest who suggested that more people could be helped by a film than by equipping his clinic.

FINANCING: Budgeted at $1.5 million, pic was financed by philanthropic individuals.

THEME: Thousands of dispossessed Haitians toil in Dominican Republic sugarcane fields under the watch of armed guards. The pic tracks the travails of Spanish priest Hartley as he attempts to organize these workers who lack decent housing, health care and clean water. Paul Newman narrates.

VARIETY REVIEW SAYS: “A solid and affecting piece of work that, unfortunately, isn’t likely to reach beyond the core aud for such earnest and enlightening nonfiction fare.”

DISTRIBUTION STATUS: Opened in New York City on Sept. 28 and has been playing in the top 20 markets. In January will open in Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, Miami, Dallas and Houston. Televison deal under offer as well as DVD. Thus far, the film has grossed more than $35,000 for distrib Mitropoulos Films.

ON THE MAKING OF THE FILM: “The film was dangerous to make,” says Haney. “The threat of violence to the protagonist (Father Hartley) made things complicated for him. The company and the owners of the plantations frequently have people watching — guys on horseback with machetes riding circles around you while you’re trying to film. So they posed a threat. I was concerned for my crew and for the priest and for the people we interviewed. For the Haitians, we were very concerned that being seen being interviewed by us would pose a real threat to them.”

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