After a year-long hiatus due to the pandemic
, “In the Heights
” finally arrived in theaters last week to near-universal acclaim from critics, many of whom hailed it as a cinematic celebration of Latinx
The film, based on Lin-Manuel Miranda
's 2008 Broadway
musical of the same name, has received a fair amount of online criticism for its glaring lack of Afro-Latinx representation
. The cast includes many light-skinned and white-passing actors
, including Anthony Ramos
and Leslie Grace, and many see the film as a less-than-accurate depiction of New York City
Heights neighborhood, where it t
Last week, in a video interview
with The Root's Felice León, director Jon M. Chu
addressed allegations that the film was "whitewashed."
“I think that was something we discussed and, of course, I needed to be educated about,” Chu said, adding, “In the end, when we were looking at the cast, we tried to get the people
who were best for those roles.”
“I think that’s a really good conversation to have, something that we should all be discussing,” he added.
You can watch
the interview here:
Later in the interview, actress Melissa Barrera mentioned that “a lot of darker-skinned people” had shown up for auditions, which raised even more questions about the film’s lack of diversity
When Barrera and Chu mentioned the presence of darker-skinned dancers in the film's ensemble scenes, León reacted angrily.
“Those are roles that, historically, we’ve been able to fill,” said the journalist
, who is a Black
New Yorker of Cuban descent. “We’ve been able to be dancers, we’ve been able to be in hair
salons and, you know, this and that, but a lead? That’s the breakthrough
Chu agreed to some extent, saying that he hoped “In the Heights” would inspire “more people to tell more stories and get out there and do it right then.”
“We're not going to get everything right in a film,” he admitted.
Many people expressed their displeasure with Chu's comments after video of the interview surfaced on social media
"We're not going to get everything right in a movie," is not a good enough answer when discussing representation, especially coming from another Person of Color with the power to get things right; it's the same excuse white people use, and it's doubly insulting coming from a POC. — Black Women
's Lives Matter. Carolyn Hinds (@CarrieCnh12) June 13, 2021
— roxane gay (@rgay) June 13, 2021
“Did you not notice the dancers?!?!?” — Valerie Complex (@ValerieComplex) June 13, 2021
It isn't the first time Chu's work
has been accused of colorism. His 2018 film "Crazy Rich Asians
" was hailed as a watershed moment for Asian representation, but it was also divisive due to its focus on East Asian characters.
Miranda did not respond to The Root's request for comment, but in a recent interview with Vox, he addressed concerns that "In the Heights" only featured light-skinned Latinx people.
“It’s unfair to impose an undue burden of representation on ‘In the Heights,’” he said. “There are so many millions of stories — there’s a song in ‘Heights’ called ‘Hundreds of Stories,’ but there’s millions of stories — from the cultural specificities of the Puerto Rican American experience, the Dominican American experience, the Cuban American experience, and we couldn’t get our arms around it.