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Hollywood premieres get in-person with ‘In the Heights’

The first major studio in-person premiere since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic took place on Friday (June 4) with the special screening of ‘In the Heights’ as part of the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF)

The movie, which is an adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name by Lin-Manuel Miranda, will hold its official world premiere next week as part of the Tribeca film festival in the site of the movie, Washington Heights.

However, on Friday, many of the key cast members, including lead actresses Melissa Barrera and Leslie Grace, at the TCL Chinese Theatre to launch the film, which is seen as the first major Latino Hollywood film in years.

The film is brought to the screen by Jon M. Chu, the director who managed to bring to the screen ‘Crazy Rich Asians’, which brought Asian representation to American audiences and became a box office success. Both ‘In the Heights’ and ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ are distributed by Warner Bros.

Chu told Reuters at the premiere, where talent were maskless but media were fully masked and socially distant, “I am so moved by seeing a red carpet, which is crazy. I haven’t been this excited since probably my first movie.”

The musical film explores the hopes and dreams of young people in the mostly Latino area of Washington Heights in New York.

Melissa Barrera, who plays wannabe fashion designer Vanessa, said “I just think it’s the perfect time. I’m so happy that we get to actually like get to do this in person and here with a theater filled with our gentes (people), with Latinos, hopefully they love it as much as we loved making it.” 

Her co-star and fellow lead, Leslie Grace plays Nina, a young woman who returns to the community after feeling isolated at college.

Grace said at the special screening, “It’s a celebration. It’s a celebration of life, it’s a celebration of everything that you are. We all felt like we were telling a story that allowed us to walk on set with our full selves and not have to code-switch and bring all of our life experiences to this moment and then challenge ourselves to do things we never dreamed of even doing and I think you feel that through the screen. You feel that through the story, you feel that through the songs that we’re singing and everything we put into this so I can’t wait for the world to see it and experience it. This movie deserves to be experienced and not just seen.”

The film has received almost flawless reviews from critics with a 98% rating on review aggregator website, rottentomatoes.com.

“I think it’s special because Latinos have been so under-represented and not celebrated,” said Barrera, adding “Now we get to celebrate our history and our ancestors because it’s a musical that honors our music and our food and our traditions and our names and everything. It’s just beautiful but it’s also a very universal story. It’s a story about human beings that have big dreams and that doubt themselves but then find their path and the community that uplifts them and I think that’s a very universal thing and anyone who watches – not only Latinos – will be able to relate.”

‘In the Heights’ will be screened in theaters and on HBO Max from June 11.

(Production: Rollo Ross, Sandra Stojanovic)

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