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‘I can hear the hurt’: Lin-Manuel Miranda addresses ‘colourism’ criticism of In The Heights

  • June 15, 2021

Filmmaker Lin-Manuel Miranda has said he is “truly sorry” for a lack of Afro-Latino actors in lead roles for his new musical In The Heights, saying: “We fell short.”

Adapted from Miranda‘s 2005 stage production of the same name, the title refers to Washington Heights – a predominantly Latino neighbourhood in New York City – and highlights both the struggles and joys of living there.

Starring Anthony Ramos, who leads an ensemble cast, the film has been widely praised for its diversity and heralded as a step forward for Latino representation in Hollywood.

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Filmmaker Lin-Manuel Miranda says he can ‘hear the hurt and frustration over colourism’. Pic: Warner Bros Studios

The film covers the issues of undocumented immigrants, ICE (Immigration Compliance and Enforcement) raids, racism, gentrification and poverty – as well as the joy and excitement of a community that is talked about so little in mainstream cinema.

However, Miranda, 41, has now addressed criticism which emerged over a lack of darker-skinned actors in the film.

In a lengthy apology on Twitter, he wrote: “I started writing In the Heights because I didn’t feel seen. And over the past 20 years all I wanted was for us – ALL of us – to feel seen.

“I’m seeing the discussion around Afro-Latino representation in our film this weekend and it is clear that many in our dark-skinned Afro-Latino community don’t feel sufficiently represented within it, particularly among the leading roles.”

Miranda, who was a producer on the film and also had an on-screen role, said he could “hear the hurt and frustration over colourism” and admitted the movie “fell short”.

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He continued: “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.

“In trying to paint a mosaic of this community, we fell short. I’m truly sorry. I’m learning from the feedback, I thank you for raising it, and I’m listening.”

Director Jon M Chu retweeted Miranda’s statement.

In an interview with Sky News ahead of the film’s UK release on 18 June, Miranda said the story is “always going to be relevant” as “there’s such a meagre representation of Latinos in a positive light in mainstream media that it’s always going to feel like now is the perfect time because it’s always overdue”.

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He continued: “We filmed this in the summer of 2019 and the poignancy and power of seeing people in community together, like singing and hugging each other and kissing, dancing in the streets is the power of what we can do together, I think really radiates off the screen, and as the kids say, ‘it hits different’ now than it may have at an earlier time.”

While In The Heights has been a hit with critics, it has not done as well as expected at the box office in the US.

Entertainment magazine Variety described it taking a “lacklustre” $11.4m (about £8m) over its four-day opening weekend in North America.

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