He is the guy whose Broadway show sold out every performance for six years and made him a household name. Now Lin-Manuel Miranda is back on the big screen. Miranda and his Puerto Rican co-writer Quiara Alegría Hudes, had been hashing out the story of Puerto Rican journalist Julio Vallejo, who worked for The Christian Science Monitor in the 1950s, for around two years until they finally started writing the screenplay in July 2017. The movie is called Encanto, and it was filmed in Puerto Rico last December with Miranda, as well as a star-studded cast that includes Tony nominees John Leguizamo, Michael Esper, Andrew Rannells, and Grammy winner Rita Moreno.
These men have more talent than possible, but each with his own proud history: https://t.co/VpjgtjmkJ4 pic.twitter.com/02oMm0CmO1 — Marc (@marc_brahn) August 8, 2018
The movie covers Vallejo’s legacy in different genres: as a journalist, a writer, and a political activist in the 1960s and ’70s. As a journalist he wrote critically about intolerance and unjust discrimination against Puerto Ricans. In 1965 he published a piece saying that the Department of Justice was intentionally going after an 18-year-old Puerto Rican named Alberto Vallejo for a bank robbery. A few years later he contributed a series of articles about Puerto Rico’s discrimination against Catholics.
Vallejo’s activism was directed at a country already in a state of perpetual civil war. In 1965, Puerto Rico became a state when it became the 51st to do so. And almost simultaneously, the U.S. passed an unpopular law giving land rights to Dominicans in the U.S. Virgin Islands, while taking away rights from a group of indigenous Puerto Ricans, the Torres Cristos. Vallejo joined an organization called the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Army to protest this unequal treatment.
Vallejo was eventually arrested, tried, and found guilty of resisting arrest, but the jury still acquitted him of the more serious charge of murder. He served time in prison before being sent back to the Virgin Islands, where he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006. Encanto premiered at the Venice Film Festival last month, where it received positive reviews from critics and art critics.
Miranda has said that he became invested in this script for two reasons: First, he felt that the story really represented the American experience. And, second, he saw it as a way to support his native land:
“In a lot of movies I see everything I grew up with being represented. But they’re just representations, they’re not real. And this movie feels so real it almost feels like a director could put it on stage in Puerto Rico with ten Puerto Ricans, and they would all feel the same way they did then. I feel that feeling, that feeling of being connected to something that’s not my own history and it’s not my own experience. So for me it’s important for it to feel real.”
Sharing a Venezuelan filmmaker with the Puerto Rican filmmaker was even more inspirational for Miranda. In an interview with Puerto Rican filmmaker Rebecca Cifrin in the New York Times, Miranda said, “It helps us tap into that visceral information of native reality. I can’t imagine making the kind of narrative films I’m making now and not wanting that to be a part of who I am and who my culture is. I just don’t think I could do it.”
While this movie is only now going into its first festival, its commercial prospects look good. It was awarded “Best Drama” at the San Sebastián International Film Festival in Spain last month, and it’s nominated for “best direction” at the American Film Critics Association Awards. It is also competing for the “Best Narrative Feature” award at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards.
Read the full story at The Hollywood Reporter.
Julio Vallejo, editor who angered government by writing about ‘racial prejudice,’ dies at 104