I love the opportunity to champion new filmmakers. There are so many wonderful independent films that are seen by too few people, and many of these films are as good, if not better, than the studio movies that get so much attention. One such film is “Trouble in the Heights,” the first feature by screenwriter and director Jonathan Ullman.
It may seem odd for a Jewish filmmaker to make a film that is populated primarily by Latino characters and actors, but the seed of the story was planted when Jonathan moved to Washington Heights, an uptown New York City neighborhood with a large number of Latino residents, especially from the Dominican Republic. The story came to him one day while walking the streets of his adopted neighborhood.
“There’s something very cinematic about the lay of the land to me,” he says, “the architecture, the [George Washington] Bridge, of course. Also, it doesn’t look like any other neighborhood in New York…. It has its very own unique identity.”
Still, this film came as a surprise even to its filmmaker. “Five years ago before or even after I moved up here, I would never have thought in a million years that my first feature film would look like this,” he says.
Jonathan also feels that the neighborhood has been neglected in films. “This neighborhood adopted me,” he says, “and I wanted to do something to return the favor.” The area has begun to get a bit more attention, however, since the Broadway musical “In the Heights” by Lin-Manuel Miranda and the new reality TV show on MTV titled simply, “Washington Heights.”
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