Home » “In the Heights” in the cinema: A block party for America – culture

“In the Heights” in the cinema: A block party for America – culture

by archyw

The George Washington Bridge towers over the New York borough of Washington Heights on the northern tip of the Manhattan Peninsula. The bridge and quarter are named after the American founding father, the last defensive bastion against the Confederate army of slave owners was located here during the Civil War.

Washington Heights is the epitome of the melting pot in the metropolis of New York: First the Irish immigrants settled between the Hudson and Harlem Rivers, from the 1930s onwards tens of thousands of European Jews moved into the quarter, the last wave of immigration came from Central and Eastern Europe after the war. and South America. Little Dominican Republic is the name of the neighborhood in New York today – from the last line of defense to the model for 21st century America.

American director Lin-Manuel Miranda grew up just a few miles north of Washington Heights. His declaration of love for the place of his childhood brought him his first Broadway success in 2008: Miranda drew attention to himself in the New York theater scenes with the musical “In the Heights”, before becoming a pop culture with the hip-hop musical “Hamilton” Keyword giver advanced.

The rapping founding fathers conquered the world, but “Hamilton” only saw the screen as a filmed play. “In the Heights” by “Crazy Rich” director Jon M. Chu is the first Miranda film adaptation. And the collaboration between the most sought-after Broadway director (screenplay) and the director of the first Hollywood blockbuster with a purely Asian ensemble can only be described as an ingenious diversity highlight in the film industry.

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The dreams of the third generation of immigrants

Film musicals today – see “La La Land” and especially the Cannes opening film “Annette” – always have an obligation to reflect on their own artificiality, if necessary as a camp. Miranda and Chu don’t even bother with such pretensions, “In the Heights” is a shameless block party and a celebration of the American way of life – in the national colors of Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Haiti.

Shithole Countriesas the former US president called them. “In the Heights” tells of the dreams of the second and third generation of immigrants, which are still difficult to reconcile with the American Dream.

The young shop owner Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), for example, who has a lifelong dream – little dream – wants to meet his deceased father: a beach bar in the Dominican homeland. And Nina (Leslie Grace), the daughter of the boss in the neighborhood Kevin Rosario (Jimmy Smits), who made it to Stanford, but only feels like a second-class American among the white elite students.


Or Usnavi’s secret flame Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), who works in the beauty salon but actually wants to study fashion design – and can’t even get out of her apartment block. The good soul of the district is Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz), who saw half the neighborhood grow up and always has a wisdom ready – for example, to enjoy the little things as long as they have existed.

Soca and reggaeton, salsa and latino hip-hop

The musical is the perfect form for the American Dream, equal parts escapism and utopia. Miranda and Chu tell a kind of “West Side Story” for them DreamerGeneration, the children of the illegally immigrated Latinas and Latinos. The DACA agreement initiated by Barack Obama was supposed to protect them from deportation.

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But Donald Trump is not the only disruptive factor in social peace; a wave of gentrification is also rolling towards the neighborhood. Only the empowering power of dance and communal singing can help.

“In the Heights” lets itself be carried away by Caribbean and Latin American rhythms: Soca and reggaeton mix with salsa and Latino hip-hop. The street becomes a stage – which can be a problem for a musical. Directors such as Busby Berkeley and Vincente Minnelli always played with the artificiality of the genre, even the water ballet by Esther Williams (which receives a pretty homage) was geometrically circumscribed.

Chu, on the other hand, relies fully on the empowerment of his staging, the dance scenes of “In the Heights” always remain a bit raw at the edges. A street party that is perfectly choreographed would quickly lose its charm. Only the sung everyday dialogues pull you out of the illusion again and again, also in this realistic setting. You just have to take “In the Heights” for what it is: the feelgood movie of the summer. (In seven Berlin cinemas; OV: Cubix, OV: Rollberg)

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