Quiara Alegría Hudes is the screenwriter behind In the Heights. She also wrote the book for the Tony-winning musical of the same name. In 2012, Quiara won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play Water by the Spoonful. Read about her journey as a composer and writer, and the start of her collaboration with Lin-Manuel Miranda, here.
Growing up, I didn’t see a lot of Latinos in popular culture on the screen, except in the role of maid, in the role of drug dealer or in the nightly news—and it was all bad news. And I thought, “That’s not who we are.” For me, one of the things that representation brings right now, especially, is the representation of joy and togetherness that comes onscreen. I think that’s such an important part of representation. It’s not just expanding and correcting the record on what the struggles have been, but also the joy that we live every day. That for me is big.
Here are five movies that resonated with Quiara growing up.
That was a big one for me. And it turned out that when Lin and I met later in my life, we had that in common as an influence. For me, at the time when I saw it, I just hadn’t seen a lot of film, or really art in any medium, that reflected an urban experience without vilifying it, and really humanizing it and being with the community. Having grown up in Philadelphia, that left an impression on me. This is what it’s like to live in a diverse city where there’s still nonetheless tension and segregation, but there’s a whole lot of community and cohabitation.
That one is just so emotional and exciting for me. I just get swept away every time I watch that movie.
That was a huge one for me. I thought the focus on, basically, completely immature obnoxious teenage boys held in relief against a mature woman who was lost—I found that really riveting. And it also has a really punchy sense of humor.
It is just utterly, utterly romantic. I love that movie so much. As someone who grew up making mix tapes, the final sequence is basically a filmmaker’s mix tape of every screen kiss that got cut out due to censorship. I love that final scene.
Similar to Y tu mamá también, I just love stories about the dangerous emotionality of adolescence. So an epic based on a very talented adolescent’s mood swings that affects an entire generation of people—I love it. I find it very sweeping. It’s like I forget myself watching that movie.