'In The Heights' Director Has Disappointing Response To 'Whitewashing' Criticisms

Written by on June 14, 2021

After a yearlong delay as a result of pandemic, “Within the Heights” opened in theaters final week to near-universal reward from critics, a lot of whom hailed it as a cinematic celebration of Latinx tradition.

The film, primarily based on the 2008 Broadway musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, has nonetheless drawn a good quantity of on-line backlash for its obtrusive lack of Afro-Latinx illustration. The forged options many light-skinned and white-passing actors, together with Anthony Ramos and Leslie Grace — and lots of see the movie as a less-than-accurate depiction of New York Metropolis’s Washington Heights neighborhood, the place it takes place. The movie’s solely Black principal character, Benny, is performed by Corey Hawkins, a non-Latino actor. 

Talking to The Root’s Felice León in a video interview final week, director Jon M. Chu touched on accusations that the movie had been “whitewashed.” 

“I feel that was one thing we talked about and I wanted to be educated about, after all,” Chu stated. “In the long run, after we had been wanting on the forged, we tried to get the those who had been finest for these roles.” 

“I feel that’s a very good dialog to have, one thing that we should always all be speaking about,” he added. 

Catch the interview under: 

Later within the interview, actor Melissa Barrera famous that “quite a lot of darker-skinned individuals” had turned up at auditions ― an remark that made the movie’s lack of range much more eyebrow-raising. 

León pushed again when Barrera and Chu pointed to the presence of darker-skinned dancers within the movie’s ensemble scenes. 

“These are roles that, traditionally, we’ve been in a position to fill,” stated the journalist, who’s a Black New Yorker of Cuban descent. “We’ve been in a position to be the dancers, we’ve been in a position to be within the hair salons and, you realize, this and that. However, like, a lead? That’s the breakthrough.” 

Chu acquiesced considerably, saying he hoped “Within the Heights” would encourage “extra individuals to inform extra tales and get on the market and do it proper then.” 

“We’re not going to get every thing proper in a film,” he stated. 

After footage of the interview appeared on-line, many on social media expressed their disappointment with Chu’s feedback.  

It isn’t the primary time that Chu’s work has been accused of colorism. “Loopy Wealthy Asians,” a 2018 movie he directed, was seen as a milestone for Asian illustration, however it additionally proved to be polarizing for its emphasis on characters of East Asian descent. 

Miranda didn’t communicate to The Root, however he addressed issues that “Within the Heights” highlighted solely light-skinned Latinx individuals in an interview with Vox revealed final week. 

“It’s unfair to place any form of undue burden of illustration on ‘Within the Heights,’” he stated. “There are such a lot of thousands and thousands of tales — there’s a music in ‘Heights’ known as ‘A whole lot of Tales,’ however there’s thousands and thousands of tales — from the cultural specificities of the Puerto Rican American expertise, the Dominican American expertise, the Cuban American expertise, and we couldn’t get our arms round all of that.”


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