Jon M. Chu’s In the Heights movie, based on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning Broadway play, opens the Tribeca Film Festival on Wednesday, June 9 and in theaters and HBO Max on Thursday, June 10, 2021. #InTheHeightsMovie
The film has an all-star cast including Anthony Ramos (Hamilton), Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton), Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera (Vida), Olga Merediz (In the Heights), Daphne Rubin-Vega (Rent), Gregory Diaz IV (Matilda), Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Dascha Polanco (Orange is the New Black) and Jimmy Smits (LA Law). Miranda plays a cameo role, as the pirogue guy of course.
Jon M. Chu is an American of Chinese descent who is known for his 2018 hit romantic comedy “Crazy Rich Asians.” It was the first major Hollywood movie to feature a majority Asian cast since the early 1990s. Chu is becoming the go-to director for more authentic representations of America’s minority communities.
That’s what is so exciting about this movie and this moment. We are so regularly portrayed in Hollywood and the media as evil bad guys and taught from birth to deny our own heritage, that to be represented as regular people with the same joys and sorrows as everyone else, is a big breath of fresh air.
We are proud to be Americans, but also proud to be Latin, African, Asian, European, Jewish, Native American or whatever. We are all human. Director Chu was very clear about this. We are just going to be who we are. No more whitewashing.
Latins will love the many iconic elements of barrio life in New York, from the pirogue guy (shaved ice cart) to the “light and sweet” coffee. The story is based in Washington Heights, a Dominican neighborhood in Upper Manhattan that is in transition. It’s still New York City’s Little Dominican Republic, but the City recently rezoned parts of the neighborhood for high-rise buildings, so everything is changing a lot now.
Lin-Manuel Miranda began writing “In the Heights” when he was just 19. He grew up on the north side of Dyckman Street on the border of Washington Heights. Dyckman is a main street of New York’s Dominican community. We used to live a block south of Dyckman so it’s our barrio too.
Three Days in the Life of a Bodega
The story revolves around a bodega corner store. Our communities often lack supermarkets, so the bodega is where you shop. It’s also where you get your morning coffee on the way to work, and catch up on the local news. It’s where you go to talk when you need to work something out. You might meet your crush there.
Bodegas are really little community centers. Some give loans to regulars. In the Caribbean, some offer entertainment. They are really the center of the community.
The World Is Changing And So Are We
Like “Hamilton,” “In the Heights” is one of those plays where fans know all the words by heart. The great songs are still there, but the story has evolved just like the creators, the community, and the American people have evolved.
There are two kinds of storytellers in the Latin world. One makes stories that resonate inside the community. Another makes universal stories that resonate with everyone. “In the Heights” has evolved into that bigger story.
The Broadway play is more a cry against gentrification. The movie is more about people pursuing their American dreams. In our country, everything is possible, but nothing is given. You have to take it.
This story is set in a Latin community, but it’s really a story about New York itself. More than any place on earth, our city is a place where you can completely reinvent yourself. You can be whatever you want, as long as you deliver.
There is nothing small about New York. It’s a city of dreams, but to be a New Yorker, you have to dream big. See the movie, start dreaming and don’t stop until you find yourself in the heights.