The film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s acclaimed musical In the Heights is out now and prior to release, it received mostly acclaim from critics.
In the Heights, which currently holds a rating of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, opened to a gross of $11 million at the box office this weekend. However, the film, which stars Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace and Melissa Barrera, has also been the subject of fair criticism.
Despite its title, In The Heights has been criticized for its lack of Afro-Latinx actors and actresses in the film. It’s a tad bad ironic, considering the neighborhood which it is based in and named after, Washington Heights, has a predominant population of darker-skinned Afro-Latinx people.
Folks on Twitter have been vocal about their disdain for the lack of appropriate Afro-Latinx representation in the film as most of the Latinx actors are light-skinned or white-passing
I lived in Washington Heights for 5 years. You can’t take a step in Washington Heights without seeing dark skinned Black-Latin people. #InTheHeights erases them from the neighborhood. This ‘light skinned Latinx only’ story is very disappointing. https://t.co/bm6Yzlhpn3— Amara ❤️ #Democracy (@Amara_deMachado) June 13, 2021
My father is a whole Panamanian immigrant. We lived in the heights for several years when I was child. The casting criticisms are all very valid, but I still loved it pic.twitter.com/1pYrczlabI— maybe: Phillip (@MajorPhilebrity) June 14, 2021
In The Heights was beautifully shot, but I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing. Afro-Latinx people make up a large portion of Washington Heights, but the principal roles couldn’t reflect that? Casting overlooked us for the leads but rushed to fit us in as dancers?— dee (@deecrichards) June 14, 2021
In an interview with The Root’s Felice León, director John M. Chu addressed the discourse regarding the film’s erasure of dark-skinned Afro-Latinx people, noting that it is “a fair conversation to have.” Though he recognized the problem, Chu said the actors chosen were the “best for the role.”
Barerra said, “In the audition process, which was a long audition process, there were a lot of Afro-Latinos there. A lot of darker-skinned people. And I think they were looking for just the right people for the roles. For the person that embodied each character in the fullest extent.”
Grace, an Afro-Latina actress in the film, spoke on her desire to see more dark-skinned Afro-Latinx people represented in film. “I didn’t realize until making this movie that I didn’t really get to see myself or people that looked like my siblings, that are darker than me, onscreen. I hope that this is cracking that glass ceiling. Because I do hope to see my brothers and sisters that are darker than me lead these movies.”
Watch the full interview below:
“I do hope to see my brothers and sisters that are darker than me lead these movies.” — @lesliegrace#InTheHeightsMovie is a breakthrough film in many ways when it comes to representation, but one question remains: where are the darker-skinned Afro-Latinx folks? pic.twitter.com/yfa2e80HEu— The Root (@TheRoot) June 9, 2021