Reviewed in brief: "Ballplayer: Pelotero" + "Gerhard Richter Painting"

  • Updated: July 13, 2012 - 4:35 PM

Two documentaries opening Friday.

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Miguel Angel Sano, now a Twins minor leaguer, is among the young Dominican prospects in "Ballplayer: Pelotero."

Photo: , Strand Releasing

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BALLPLAYER: PELOTERO ★★★ out of four stars

UnratedWhere: St. Anthony Main.

You don't have to be a sports buff to appreciate this stunningly frank documentary. It chronicles the trials of two top Dominican baseball prospects, 16-year-olds Miguel Angel Sano and Juan Carlos Batista, competing for multimillion-dollar major-league contracts during the 2009 scouting season. Viewers familiar with the Twins' minor-league roster already know the outcome of one of the story lines, but there's much more to ponder here. Filmmakers Ross Finkel, Trevor Martin and Jonathan Paley began by asking why a tiny Caribbean island produces so many big-league players and found the answer in an eye-opening exposé.

We meet coaches and scouts who discuss teen players using terms like "harvest," "commodity" and "industry," as if they were so much sugar cane for export. It digs into issues of age and identity fraud as some prospects misrepresent their youthfulness, and MLB officials launch seemingly spurious investigations to delay signing and drive down players' bonuses. We see Sano's frustrated family fighting to prove that he's not older than he says he is, and Batista confronted with a secret his parents kept from him. The film, narrated by John Leguizamo, is a surprisingly nuanced essay on the collision between poverty, hope, exploitation and passion. In English and subtitled Spanish.

COLIN COVERT

GERHARD RICHTER PAINTING

★★ 1/2 out of four stars

Unrated Where: Lagoon.

They take their art stars seriously in Germany, where a press conference by painter Gerhard Richter draws a presidential-size throng of photogs and reporters. Richter, now 80, wealthy and famous, good-naturedly says his celebrity leaves him with "no time to paint." This revealing documentary nonetheless spends at least half of its 97 minutes observing Richter at work in an enormous studio in Cologne.

Though the film traces his long career in both abstract and figurative painting, the focus is on his current style, Abstract Squeegee-ism, in which Richter paints a gestural Abstract Expressionistic canvas, then rakes over it with giant, paint-laden squeegees. Richter gives off a heroic, creator-of-the-universe air as he strains to push the squeegee, exposing a new world in his wake. The illegibility of many of the subtitles is annoying.

CLAUDE PECK

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