It's a Wrap

Austin Film Festival 2002 reviews

<i>Washington Heights</i>
Washington Heights

Washington Heights

D: Alfredo De Villa/W: Alfredo De Villa & Nat Moss; with Tomas Milian, Manny Perez, Danny Hoch, Jude Ciccolella, Andrea Navedo, Bobby Cannavale.

Competition Film

Set in north Manhattan's Dominican/Puerto Rican neighborhood of the same name, Washington Heights presents a stirring, slice-of-life sketch of its main character, aspiring comic book artist Carlos Ramirez (Perez). Having spent his entire life in the Heights, Carlos now spends most of his time trying to pull away: from the neighborhood, and from his lovable-but-cantankerous father, Eddie (Milian), the owner of a local bodega. But when Eddie is shot and paralyzed by a cracked-out bodega burglar, Carlos grudgingly moves back home to take care of him and run the store. As both father and son struggle to accept Eddie's new condition, they are forced to confront each other's shortcomings and deal with age-old resentments of the kind that can only develop between parent and child. Meanwhile, Carlos' best friend Mickey (Hoch) -- a building super with dreams of entering the amateur world bowling championship -- manages to steal enough money from a local gangster to make his and Carlos' dreams come true. Though Carlos works quickly to help his friend, easy money once again comes at a high price, and Mickey pays dearly. In the end, Carlos transfers these experiences to his comic books, engaging both the neighborhood and his father to bring life and meaning to his art. With his own color and flaire, co-writer/director Alfredo de Villa combines independent film's canon of stock ingredients in a way that's solid and seems fresh. Particularly strong performances are given by leads Milian and Perez, who manage to pull off everything from heartfelt to enraged as their characters fight the good fight between father and son. (Washington Heights won the AFF Feature Jury Award.)

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