Piraguas, acrylic nails and the GWB! The first full-length trailer of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s upcoming “In The Heights” film has dropped, and for fans of the hit Broadway show, which the movie is based on, it feels like they’ve won the lottery.
“Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon Chu has joined Miranda in recreating the Grammy and Tony award-winning musical about a Dominican bodega owner and his neighbors in the New York City barrio, Washington Heights. The star-studded and nearly all-Latinx cast includes Anthony Ramos, Marc Anthony, Dascha Polanco and Stephanie Beatriz.
The trailer depicts a dramatic, lyrical day-in-the-life narrative of the Hispanic-American community in Washington Heights. The Heights is vibrant and bustling, and this first trailer promises to stay true to the neighborhood’s spirit. The film also nods to the growing threat of gentrification to New York City neighborhoods — “the story of a block that was slowly disappearing,” as the main character, Usnavi, says in the teaser.
The trailer suggests that the movie will put a new spin on the original musical. The narrative follows Usnavi as he tells modern-day stories about his neighborhood to a group of children. The characters in his tales face timely Latinx issues that have become part of the national political and social conversation, including immigrant rights and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“They’re talking about kicking out all DREAMers,” a young boy says in the trailer. “It’s time to make some noise.”
With “In The Heights,” Miranda and the cast are taking a rare step in a predominantly white Hollywood by centering powerful and gripping Latinx stories on the silver screen.
A recent study from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California found that only about 3% of lead or co-lead roles in the top movies have gone to Latinx actors in the last 12 years. And Latinx speaking roles were nonexistent in almost half of the sampled films. The community’s small presence on the big screen is a harsh contrast to the growing Latinx population in the United States. Nearly 60 million Hispanic people live in the U.S., and they account for almost 17% of the population.
“It’s a watershed moment to see Latinx folks on the screen and in positive roles,” Ben Lopez, the executive director of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers, told HuffPost. “We need support all the way through. We need a commitment from studios to say, ‘We are prioritizing communities of color. We are prioritizing these folks because they happen to reflect the audience that is avid consumers of the content we’re putting out.’”
“In The Heights” is a celebration of Hispanic and Latinx people in just one of the many U.S. neighborhoods where they have created a safe haven for themselves in a country that doesn’t always accept them.
“I felt that emotional connection to the material,” Lopez said of the moment he watched the trailer. “My family comes from Mexico, but what really represented was that it was P.R., D.R., Mexico — I saw all those flags in that trailer. It’s finally our moment.”
The Broadway hit show itself was groundbreaking, bringing the Spanish language and Spanglish into the United States’ mainstream musical scene. It won four Tony awards, including Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Choreography and Best Orchestrations. It was Miranda’s first musical and made him a finalist for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Now, the nearly all-Latinx cast is helping to set the stage for other Latinx-centered stories to follow.
“We have to assert our dignity in small ways,” the character Abuela Claudia says in the trailer.
Con paciencia y fe, we wait for the next preview of the highly anticipated film, which hits theaters June 26, 2020.
Watch the trailer above.
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