I’ve been in a state of some anticipation, then, about seeing the film of his pre-Hamilton hit musical In The Heights, which hit cinemas last week, telling the story of a Latino New York community.
I saw it on Tuesday and my verdict? It could do with a good edit, the music isn’t as insistent or lyrically brilliant as Hamilton, and I spent the final hour of the film weeping as it moved me like almost nothing I can recall in the last five years.
That’s not an exaggeration for the sake of this column, by the way. From the death of one of the characters in the final third of this two hour 23 minutes musical extravaganza to the final scene, I sobbed, Manuel Miranda’s story releasing what felt like a reservoir of tears I didn’t even know had been building in my heart for a long time.
Since the release of the film there have been some brickbats thrown at it. Manuel Miranda issued an apology following criticism about colourism in the film – the majority of the cast are light-skinned Latinos. The creator of the musical said: “It is clear that many in our dark-skinned Afro-Latino community don’t feel sufficiently represented...I can hear the hurt and frustration... I’m truly sorry.”
As ever, he sets a high moral bar. I’m not going to go into that discussion, although Manuel Miranda has done more for representation of people of colour on stage and screen than many decades worth of theatre and cinema creatives that have come before him. What I will add is an explanation of why this movie moved me so much.
I’m not Latino. I’m not a New Yorker. I’m not a Dreamer, but immigrant blood courses through my veins and the tale that In The Heights tells is so rooted in the universal immigrant story that it spoke to something deep inside. It’s been a tough few years for us British people who are easily identifiable as being from immigrant stock.
In The Heights, a story of a people whose DNA is linked to another land and who, because of that, battle against and grow out of an adversity that many could never understand, is an exuberant, unapologetic, colourful and beautiful celebration of the power of the immigrant story.
After several years of constantly hearing a more poisonous narrative about immigrants and their children, it was intensely emotional to witness a story that told our story with such optimistic positivity. Please watch it – and take tissues with you.
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