Three Inspiring Takeaways From the LALIFF Screening of ‘In The Heights’

Photo courtesy of Axelle/Bauer-Griffin / FilmMagic (Left to right: Jon M. Chu, Stephanie Beatriz, Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace and Jimmy Smits) Belatina, latinx
Photo courtesy of Axelle/Bauer-Griffin / FilmMagic (Left to right: Jon M. Chu, Stephanie Beatriz, Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace and Jimmy Smits)

BELatina had the pleasure of attending the red carpet at the 20th edition of LALIFF (Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival), which turned out to be another spectacular event. During the weekend, the audience had a front-row view of incredible films, documentaries, and inspiring panels.

Just before the special screening of director Jon M. Chu’s musical and drama, “In The Heights,” we got to share a few minutes with one of the most promising Latinx stars of the moment, Melissa Barrera, who plays Vanessa, one of the musical’s main characters.

“I’m just following the footsteps of so many others that came before me that inspired me, and I hope to do the same for the next generations,” she told BELatina. “This movie is for all Latinos. This movie is for my paisanos, my Mexicans, for Cubans, for Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Colombians, Venezuelans, I don’t want to miss anyone — Costa Ricans, Brazilians —  everyone! You’re gonna see your flags and I just hope that our community claims this movie as theirs because it is!”

In the film, Vanessa struggles with her personal ambitions and the challenges one inevitably faces as a woman of color.

After the red carpet coverage, and a quick selfie with the legendary Edward James Olmos, BELatina News sat down to exclusively watch the film’s screening.

Photo courtesy of Belatina, latinx
Photo courtesy of

“In The Heights” is one of those movies that captivate you from start to finish, as if you were part of the characters’ everyday lives.

Here are our favorite takeaways:

Your chosen family will always be there for you

Whether they are blood relatives or not, and just as we saw in the movie, your neighborhood will always have your back. Even when your life takes a 180-degree turn, the support of your family and friends will always be critical.

Don’t let others determine your life’s path

Everyone has an opinion, but ultimately, your decisions should be shaped by what your soul wants. This often involves having enough courage and humility to learn from your mistakes and start over as many times as you want.

Community is invaluable

If “In The Heights” makes one thing clear, it’s the impact of gentrification. From Highland Park in Los Angeles to Washington Heights in New York, where the story takes place, the struggle for authenticity and the right to a dignified life is a long-standing battle for communities of color.

That’s why the film’s message of supporting local businesses may be the key to moving our community forward.

There are many impacting messages in the character’s emotional stories that will have you crying, laughing, and wishing to know more as the film develops. Through the messages of unity and resilience, we couldn’t help but to relate to the storylines, and that’s what makes ‘In The Heights’ so special — it painted our lives and authentically delivered it on the big screen. 

It made us feel heard and seen. It brought us hope and inspiration on knowing that everything we go through is for a higher significance and that we do have the choice to control our lives. 

As Abuelita Claudia (Olga Merediz) says in the film, everything is possible “con paciencia y fe.”