Latin Americans finally have their turn with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s film “In the Heights”


Lin-Manuel Miranda is looking forward to the day when a movie starring a Latin American cast, starring characters who are not stereotypical like maids or gardeners, will be a staple in theaters.

Until then, he’s hoping the musical “In The Heights” will change the conversation in Hollywood about the broader appeal of these films, much like “Crazy Rich Asians” did in 2018.

“The hope for me is that in five years, people will be asking ‘Why was’ In the Heights’ so important? We have 10 Latino films every year now,” said Miranda.

“To be picturesque would be a dream come true. No movie can encompass the number of stories we have to offer,” said Miranda, of Puerto Rican descent and creator of the hit musical “Hamilton”.

In the United States, Latinos go to the movies more than blacks and Asian Americans, according to a 2018 report from the Motion Picture Association of America.

Latinos make up about 18% of the American population. But a 2019 study by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that only 3% of top-grossing films from 2007 to 2018 had Latinos as either lead or co-lead.

Miranda originally wrote “In the Heights” about the vibrant multiracial community of Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood as a musical, before “Hamilton,” which reframe the story of America’s Founding Fathers from an immigrant perspective. blacks and latinos.

Shot through the streets of Washington Heights, with huge dance numbers and featuring emerging talents like Anthony Ramos and Melissa Barrera, “In the Heights” took 13 years to reach the big screen.

Directed by Jon M. Chu, with some dialogue in Spanish and English and stories about the struggle to succeed in the United States and the attraction of the homeland, it has won rave reviews.

Variety called it a “block party in honor of the experience of Latino immigrants.”

“In the Heights” had its first public screening at the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF) last week, which was the first to focus on Latin films when it launched 20 years ago.

The battle was uphill for festival co-founder Edward James Olmos, known for his roles in “Miami Vice” and “Stand and Deliver”.

“This last Oscar, I couldn’t even watch it,” Olmos said. “I was destroyed by the fact that without Rita Moreno we would not have had any representation.”

Moreno, 89, who after 60 years remains the only Latin American actress to win an acting Oscar (for “West Side Story”), presented the Oscar for best picture at the ceremony in April. A documentary on Moreno is one of the more than 50 proposals of the LALIFF festival which includes works from Brazil, Cuba and Peru.

Olmos says it’s a sign of change that he’s getting more calls these days to pitch movie and TV show ideas than he has in recent years. But he added:

“I don’t think that will really change until we do what (black filmmaker) Tyler Perry did, which was to set up his own studio… That’s what we have to do as Latinx. J hope to see this in my life. “

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