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‘In the Heights’ Breaks Ground by Rejecting Old Latin Films

Lin-Manuel Miranda was 19 years old when he wrote what he called the The “terrible musical,” which saw only five notes, made it the final version of “In the Heights,” which won four Tony Awards after its Broadway premiere in 2008.

After traveling long distances to find a suitable studio to produce an adaptation of the film. The film everyone has been waiting for will be released this Thursday. as well as the theatrical version It fell apart because it focused on long-lost Latin characters in mainstream movies, TV shows, and theater productions.

“In the Heights” tells the story of generations of residents and business owners in the iconic Latino neighborhood of Washington Heights in New York City. where Miranda, now 41

, grew up. They are balancing personal aspirations with fighting for a strong community when wealthy outsiders begin to move in and threaten to oust them.

Miranda and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Chiara Alegria Hudes must battle executives and filmmakers who rely on dilapidated clothing depicting Latinos. disproportionately whether it is a help, a criminal, or a person who lives only with wounds life

“Giara and I were armed and stuck with what we felt was important in the show’s narrative,” for example, with Nina as one of the main characters. Gathers the inner conflict of the first generation of college students. Miranda told NBC News . Making the female-centric character is smart. The Stanford University student was one of those deliberately created roles that resonated with Latino audiences when the musical came out.

Miranda said that achieving an unconventional Latin image was necessary. “mass bowel examination” during the remedial process to make sure “What is your non-negotiable thing?” Miranda said.

He remembers a time when his favorite producer made him doubt his own ability to compose songs for “In the Heights.”

“People who are on the edge of most other people’s stories in mainstream Hollywood or mainstream Broadway. They get their attention.” — Lin-Manuel Miranda

“And then my gut gave me a tummy ache,” Miranda said, “and I said, ‘If I don’t know how to write a song for this neighborhood Well, no one knows how to write a song for this area. It’s the only thing I know I can really do.'”

The film’s exaggerated Latino vision. From the main actors to the supporting actors It has brought opportunities for talented Latino creators to highlight the dynamics, humanity and struggles of communities that often feel unnoticed.

“The summer of 2019 shooting this movie was amazing. But it almost didn’t feel real,” Miranda said of the filming in his own neighborhood. north of manhattan

Director Jon M. Chu and Lin-Manuel Miranda on the set of “In the Heights”Macall Polay / Warner Bros. Pictures

Hudes, author of the book for the song version of “In the Heights” and the screenplay adapted. said that part of the magic comes from The film’s “Healing Spirit”

“Part of that healing comes from the abundance of music and dance. Another part of that healing happens through each story. And although everyone has a different path in the film, But they are connected by similar questions — especially as immigrants as immigrants. Are you at home? Here at home? Is there only one house or can we carry multiple houses within us?” Hudes said. But have a dream to go further? Is that a betrayal of this house?”

create a new star

Just as “Black Panther” does for black actors and “Crazy Rich Asians” for Asian actors, “In the Heights” stands out for showcasing Latin talent. including faces and voices that have not yet been named in the household

In an analysis of the University of Southern California Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, only 4.9 percent of speaking roles in the top 2019 movies went to Latinos. Even though they represent nearly 19 percent of the country’s population. Forty-four of the top 100 films that year had no Latin characters in the speaking role at all. The rate is not much different from 2018 (47 movies) or 2015 (40 movies).

“We are making up for the lost time,” Miranda said.

In an effort to curb this trend, Hudes said she intended to write.

“As a playwright I’m creating a job I have created a role for an actor. So I thought very carefully about the great work to create,” she said.

With the help of film director Jon M. Choo, the filmmakers combine a mix of up-and-coming talented actors and veteran actor Jimmy. Smiths and Olga Merediz reprise their beloved role as Abuela Claudia (Grandma Claudia) from the original Broadway version. The formula of established actors and newcomers proved successful in Chu’s 2018 blockbuster “Crazy Rich Asians.”

“He wants to make stars” and “inviting young talents who haven’t really had a chance to join on this huge platform,” Hudes said of Chu’s vision.

Anthony Ramos stars as a new generation of Latino actors in Hollywood films. which is portrayed as the US Navy A liquor store owner who dreams of returning to the Dominican Republic.

grew up in Bushwick in Brooklyn. Another New York City Latino neighborhood, and playing Usnavi for a three-week production at the Kennedy Center in 2018 gave Ramos just the right amount of personal and professional experience. to underscore one of his biggest roles since appearing at the Oscars. The award-winning film “A Star Is Born” and gave birth to the role of John. Laurens and Philip Hamilton in Miranda’s award-winning big Broadway play “Hamilton.”

Anthony Ramos as Usnavi and Melissa Barrera as Vanessa in “In the Heights.”Macall Polay / Warner Bros. Pictures

Ramos, 29, has his own motto: “This is for mother’s culture—— let’s go,” he said in a purely manly manner.

Ramos said that the idea “This movie is about something much bigger than you” gives him the energy to rehearse and shoot for hours. no matter how tired he felt At the same time, he said, his inner child would remind him how much he wanted a movie like “In the Heights” when he grew up.

no longer visible

Merediz, 65, said she remembers filming in Washington Heights and seeing “real people who live there, walking down the street and I’ll go, ‘Look, there’s Abuela at That’s Daniela’” referring to some of the main characters from the movie.

“They are real people. From the neighborhoods we’re presented with.” In the film, says Merediz, “and I love playing characters that are out of the ordinary — to shine a light on the little old women we’ve overlooked. That is something that cannot be seen.”

In “In the Heights,” Abuela Claudia is the quintessential ruler. She left Cuba in 1943 and settled in the neighborhood. Eventually became the surrogate grandmother of all the young people there.

The film’s most promising Oscar nominee Merediz said she was inspired by the mother in her life. including her aunt and mother.

“I want to make her the person everyone goes to for advice or to cook a good meal,” says Merediz. “She’s lived a lot. She has a lot to offer But I want to give her the special kindness that we all need.”

Abuela Claudia’s kind-hearted spirit is fully expressed during Merediz’s masterful performance of what Miranda considers a “six-minute song” called “Paciencia y Fe” (“Patience and Faith”). The way this old woman tried to preserve her dignity by retaining details and memories that reminded her of her humanity. despite the difficulty

“That to me is what makes this special,” Miranda says. “People who are on the edge of most other people’s stories in mainstream Hollywood or mainstream Broadway. They get their attention.”

Olga Merediz in “In the Plateau”Warner Bros. Pictures

When asked if “In the Heights” was a key moment for Latin representation in Hollywood, Miranda replied that “I hope so.” His cautious optimism comes from previous experiences that brought “In the Heights” to Broadway. and see how the show has succeeded in increasing audience diversity and attendance over three years. “And then goodbye,” Miranda said.

“What are people writing? what are you producing What are you doing with your money on stage?” Miranda said. “If you don’t make it they will not come And if you don’t support the Latin talent behind it.”

But Merediz is more optimistic about the moment.

“I think it was a turning point, finally, after so much effort. Is this our time?” she said. “I think this is our time.”

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