After much hype and excitement, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway play turned feature film, In The Heights, finally hit theaters and your HBO Max service. However, even before the film debuted many Latinos and woke brethren had a bone to pick with the casting choices as many felt that the film lacked one thing in particular: Afro-Latinos.
While we can all nitpick about Puerto Rican actors playing Dominicans (Anthony Ramos a.k.a. Usnavi) and having Dominican actors play Puerto Ricans (Leslie Grace a.k.a. Nina Rosario), that’s lowkey expected given the celebrity a few of these actors already had going into this movie. But not having dark-skinned Latinos involved in any important roles and mostly relegated to dancing numbers (SMH) ultimately stood out more than any musical number performed in the film. Anyone who’s ever been to Washington Heights knows that’s just not the case, hence, making the experience for many of us Latinos inauthentic.
In The Heights director, Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians) caught much blowback for the film’s lack of Afro-Latinos and in an interview with The Root addressed the criticism “that’s a fair conversation to have… we’re not going to get everything right in a movie. We tried our best on all fronts of it.”
Evidently, Chu said that “we tried to get the people that were best for those roles.” [face palm]
While the actors definitely did their thing to make the film as enjoyable as can be, the lack of Black Latinx and Afro-Latinx faces definitely took away from the authenticity that the film could’ve provided had anyone who’s ever spent ample time in Washington Heights been involved in making casting choices.
The mastermind behind the play turned Hollywood film, Lin-Manuel Miranda, too felt the absence of dark-skinned Latinos in the film (after getting called out for it) and took to Twitter to apologize as the film “fell short” of properly representing the true residents of the Latino neighborhood in upper Manhattan.
Promising to do better in future projects, Lin-Manuel said he understood why people felt a ways about In the Heights writing “I can hear the hurt and frustration over colorism, of feeling still unseen in the feedback. I hear that without sufficient dark-skinned Afro-Latino representation, the work feels extractive of the community we wanted so much to represent with pride and joy.”
This particularly stings as the Latino community almost never gets to have the spotlight shone on them in a major movie blockbuster, much less one that’s got the hype behind it like In The Heights did.
Wasn’t Jay-Z supposed to co-produce the film? He couldn’t speak up about something being off in casting? Come on, pana. We needed you, G!
While we sit here and complain about not having proper representation in the film, we have to wonder why wasn’t a Latino director chosen to make the film in the first place. No disrespect to Jon M. Chu, but the man isn’t even from the New York, much less familiar with Latino life in the Big Apple (as far as we can tell). How did anyone expect him to capture the essence of the life of a Latino in Nueva York? Does the man even listen to Big Pun or Fat Joe? Just sayin.’
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