Last week, PBS released an amazing documentary about the making of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning masterpiece “In The Heights.” The documentary catalogs behind-the-scenes moments never before seen by the public. Viewers will get a sneak peek into all aspects of the show. The documentary shows the pre-production process, rehearsals and follows all the way through to the cast lifting Miranda up at the Tony Awards, with his trophy raised to the sky. We get to see the actors meeting each other for the first time, introducing themselves and their characters to great applause from one another.
Interviews featured throughout help shed light on different aspects of the show, like how characters were fine-tuned in rehearsal. In one interview, director Thomas Kail says, “rehearsal is about crafting something, it’s about trying to realize things that have existed in your mind for weeks and months and years.” Kail went on to add “I like to try to find things in the room, but I find things in the room because I was there when the characters were created, because I had something to do with the formation of their DNA.” You can tell that although this was Miranda’s brainchild, that the undertaking of putting on a huge production was the responsibility of many people.
Lin-Manuel Miranda was just a college student when the first inklings of his show started to come to him.
Credit: Great Performances | PBS/ YouTube
After seeing the popular play “Rent,” Miranda said to himself, “Oh you can write a musical about you. About your life.”
Some powerful moments involve seeing young Miranda, with a short awkward haircut, working hard before all the fame.
Credit: Great Performances | PBS/ YouTube
At one point, we hear Miranda talking about the agony and joy of writing a song as we see him bang out notes on a piano. There’s a full pot of coffee placed drinking distance from his face. You get the feeling he drank a lot of it.
The heart of the entire show, Miranda says, is the song “When You’re Home.”
Credit: Great Performances | PBS/ YouTube
In interviews intercut with the performance of the song, Miranda says that the song is an attempt to answers the question: “What does it mean to be Puerto Rican, if you don’t live in Puerto Rico?”
You can see the full hour-long documentary here on PBS’ website.
You might love or hate the fact that streaming services have changed the way in which we watch television, but there is no denying that we have way more entertainment options than before, and that the depth and reach of the topics that are accessible cover almost the whole planet. Through streaming services we can learn about other cultures, particularly through documentaries, a genre that is getting more financial resources and wider audiences.
A few years ago documentaries used to be the boring stuff that abuelitos watched when the soccer season was off, but they are becoming increasingly relevant to popular culture with releases such as the true crime series “Making a Murderer”, which got folk really obsessed.
But documentaries are also a way to travel without leaving your couch. So key to fostering a different and more nuanced view of Latin America (a region that has been vilified during the Trump years through harrowing and sometimes over the top migration stories) is the dissemination of documentaries that showcase the cultural and natural richness of the continent.
A new Netflix production promises to do exactly this: the feature “Guatemala: Corazón del Mundo Maya” (Guatemala: The Heartland of the Maya World) will prove that the Central American country is a beautiful place with plenty of past, a present that us trying to come to terms with recent historical trauma, and a future that is promising.
The documentary will be available from November 30 and promises to showcase the natural and cultural beauty of the Central American country.
Particularly as recent geopolitical understandings of Central America in the United States tend to characterize the region and its inhabitants as troubled and a “nuisance” in regards to migration, the fact that a Netflix documentary focuses in las bondades of Guatemala is a welcome development. The documentary will be a cultural and geological survey of the country, and is directed by Luis Ara and Ignacio Jaunsolo. It will be narrated by Christian Morales. This audiovisual journey will take us from the mountain range Sierra de las Minas to Esquipulas and Chiquimula. Netflix has also delved into the ancient traditions of other Latin American countries such as Peru and its Inca legacy.
Sure, Mexico has a rich Mayan heritage, but Guatemala tiene lo suyo!
Audiences will get to know important tourist sites such as Antigua (perhaps the most Insta ready city in the world!), but also be witness to the glorious Mayan past that has permeated Guatemalan culture, language and identity for centuries. Archeological sites such as Peten will be showcased, alongside cultural manifestations such as traditional attires. Production lasted for about seven months, a lengthy shooting. The music was created by artists such as Eric Kinny, Songs of Water, Luke Atencio, Thad Kopec, On Earth, CHPTRS, Ryan Taubert, Kingpinguïn, Albatross, A. Taylor, Dexter Britain, Jordan Critz, Tony Anderson and Kerry Muzzey,
So Netflix wants to compete with NatGeo in exploring the Mayan world.
Netflix realized that NatGeo documentaries about the mystic Mayan world had good ratings, particularly due to the obsession that some Global North countries had with this ancient civilization after the year 2012, which according to some interpretations of Mayan codes would signal the end of the world. And well, we all know that didn’t happen right?
BTW, now that Star Wars fever is at an all time high… did you know the Mayan ruins of Tikal in Guatemala were feature in Episode IV: A New Hope?
There you go, you can surprise and impress even your geekiest friends with this piece of warsie trivia! Tikal was used as the location of a rebel base in the planet of Yavin 4. As the Wookiepeedia states: “The shot where a Rebel oversees the Millennium Falcon landing on Yavin was taken on top of a building known as Temple IV looking east where Temples I, II and III can be seen on film”. So yes, Han Solo has been in Guatemala!
And there are other Latin American documentaries on Netflix that are totally worth checking out. We recommend “Lorena: Light-footed woman”!
Our favorite is “Lorena: Light-footed Woman”, which follows an indigenous ultramarathon woman of tarahumara descent who follows her people’s tradition of running in the mountains for distances that far surpass a traditional marathon. And they do this up high in the mountains, where oxygen is scarce. They are some of the most resilient athletes in the world! This documentary was shot by Juan Carlos Rulfo, an experienced filmmaker and son of writer Juan Rulfo, perhaps the greatest scribe that Mexico has ever produced.
The recent immigration debate in the U.S. has largely centered around the forced separation of families at the southern border and indefinite detentions. However, “Ya Me Voy,” a documentary by Mu Media, is shining light on the internal immigration debate. The story centers on a man living undocumented in the U.S. and his decision to stay in the U.S. or leave and rejoin his family. However, unexpected love and troubles at home in Mexico play a major role in his decision.
“I’m Leaving Now (Ya Me Voy)” is a touching look at the personal immigration debate many undocumented immigrants in the U.S. face.
Felipe, an undocumented immigrant living in New York, has spent years living away from his family in Mexico. His mission was to find work and send money home regularly to help his family with the ultimate goal to move back to be with his wife and kids.
The documentary starts with Felipe calling his family telling them that he was ready to move back to Mexico and reunite with them.
After several attempts and changes of mind, Felipe is finally ready to go back home. He had been sending his family money and expects to come home in a better position. It has been 16 years and he has been diligent in sending money back to his family.
However, during a phone call home, he learns that everything he had worked for has fallen apart.
His family had managed to squander the money he had sent back for them. Not only that, they had gotten themselves into debt. Felipe, who was planning to go home, realizes that it might not be able to go home since the family is now indebted after his 16 years of hard, manual labor in the U.S.
During the documentary, the audience learns that Felipe has fallen in love with a woman in the U.S.
The romantic relationship complicates his decision to do home. On one hand, he wants to reunite with his sons and wife more than anything. He misses them terribly and knows that his heart ultimately lies with them. However, his family has spent the money he managed to send them and returning would put him back where he was when he came to the U.S. all those years ago. The new romance offers him solace and comfort in the U.S.
We witness Felipe having tough conversations with his new life in the U.S.
Felipe is trying to determine if he is still able to move back to a family he does not know. It has been so long since he left Mexico that he is essentially a stranger to his children. His wife has been without him for 16 years and he has set unexpected roots in a place that was supposed to be temporary. At one point, you see him telling a vendor that he was preparing to leave and she jokes that she’ll believe it when he is no longer here.
Ultimately, he is forced to make a decision as to whether he is going to stay in the U.S. or be with a family he left years ago.
His tale is one that so many undocumented immigrants in the U.S. experience. They leave friends and family behind in an attempt to better the lives of those they are leaving behind. Many will never see their family again and have to miss major moments, like funerals, to sacrifice it all to help their family.