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'Siempre, Luis' Offers A Peek Into The Talented Miranda Family

Lin-Manuel Miranda (L) and Luis A. Miranda attend the official after party for <em>Siempre, Luis</em>, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
Mat Hayward
Getty Images
Lin-Manuel Miranda (L) and Luis A. Miranda attend the official after party for Siempre, Luis, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

The story of political player Luis Miranda and his famous son Lin-Manuel, who created and starred in Broadway musicals Hamilton and In the Heights, is the subject of a documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this past week and was just acquired by HBO. The film is called Siempre, Luis -- Miranda's sign off in his correspondences, and also a nod to his relentlessness in politics and as a champion for his talented son.

The documentary chronicles the elder Miranda's move from Puerto Rico to New York City in 1971, where he's spent four decades as a political consultant for the likes of Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton.

"You knew as a political leader: When Luis asked, people were going to listen," Schumer says in the film. In another scene, Clinton says to Miranda, "You have been going non-stop for so long, Luis. I mean, really."

Miranda started off organizing parents in New York's Washington Heights neighborhood, as he explains, "trying to gain consciousness of an immigrant population that was totally disenfranchised." He became special adviser on Hispanic Affairs for New York Mayor Ed Koch before founding the non-profit Hispanic Federation.

Luis Miranda was a key part in organizing relief efforts and bringing <em>Hamilton</em> to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
Carlos García de Dios / Carlos García de Dios for York Square Pictures
Carlos García de Dios for York Square Pictures
Luis Miranda was a key part in organizing relief efforts and bringing Hamilton to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

"I just found so many aspects of his life cinematic," says first-time filmmaker John James, who began trailing his friend Luis Miranda with a camera three years ago. "He makes his name in politics, but he quickly transitions into entertainment because he's a family guy and he wants to support his son and make sure his son succeeds. And he gets involved in all of his son's initiatives."

Siempre, Luis is also the origin story of Lin-Manuel. The film includes footage from the 2008 Tony Awards, where Miranda picked up an award for his Broadway show In the Heights. And there's footage of Miranda at The White House the following year, previewing a song from Hamilton for President Obama. Lin-Manuel explains that Alexander Hamilton's relentlessness reminded him of his father, Luis. "With Hamilton," he says, "I was just playing my father."

After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, Miranda and his father raised money and awareness for relief efforts by bringing Hamilton to the island. Luis Miranda gives a tearful plea for Puerto Ricans as they withstand a year-long struggle to mount the production in San Juan. When the show finally is about to begin, we see Lin-Manuel backstage with Luis. "You're a great dad and you're a great man," he tells his dad. "Go save Puerto Rico."

At the Sundance Film Festival, actress and filmmaker Eva Longoria said she's impressed by the documentary about her friend Luis Miranda, and hopes it inspires other community leaders to be discovered. "He really is an unsung hero doing things behind the scenes," she said. "Luis would have made a difference in the world with or without having Lin-Manuel — but I'm glad he did produce such an amazing son."

"It's cool to ride shotgun for my dad, honestly," Lin-Manuel said on the red carpet of the film's world premiere. He said his father's political activism informed his art, including Hamilton and In the Heights (both soon to be feature films).

"My dad has spent his life helping other people and pushing causes he believes in, and people he believes in, into the spotlight," he said. "So it's nice to have my dad in the spotlight. He really enjoys it. You know, my dad's never wanted to run for office. He's been approached several times, and he always says, 'Well, I always want to be able to say whatever I want.' And you can't do that if you're in politics."

On the red carpet at Sundance, Luis Miranda did take the opportunity to speak his mind. "I hope that when people leave the theater, they ask themselves, am I doing enough to get rid of Trump? Am I doing enough to make sure that my family moves forward, that my kids are doing their best?"

The 65-year-old Miranda said after a lifetime of being behind the scenes, all the attention was new to him. "It's a narcissistic dream," he said with a wink.

After the premiere, Luis Miranda and his son, Lin-Manuel, went on to celebrate with their entire family at the Latinx House, a hub for filmmakers and film lovers. Side-by-side, the two Mirandas salsa danced the night away.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.
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