The United Palace of Cultural Arts (UPCA) hosted a screening of “Trouble in the Heights” on January 24th in upper Manhattan. The third largest theater in Manhattan, the United Palace had not shown a film since “2001: A Space Odyssey” in 1968. The dramatic thriller is set in the predominantly Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights. The story begins with two young friends Javy (Antonio Ortiz) and Robbie (Cruz Santiago) who discover a bag of drug money and bury it under the George Washington Bridge not aware of what lies ahead. The money belongs to the neighborhood drug kingpin, Nevada (Raul Esparza) and he wants the money back but not without a fight. Javi’s older brother Diego (Rayneil Rufino) steps in to protect his family and confront Nevada who is seeking revenge over the course of a day. In the end the decision Diego makes will change his life as well as his loved ones.
The film which was almost entirely shot in Washington Heights was directed by New York based director Jonathan Ullman. “Trouble in the Heights” is being distributed by VIVA Pictures and is currently found on Video on Demand, Pay Per View and outlets such as Redbox, iTunes, Blockbuster and more. The Spanish subtitles version is available on DVD and on their website www. Troubleintheheights.com. Ullman found inspiration for the film when he moved to Washington Heights five years ago and learned about the Dominican culture. While filming Heights he discovered the popular drink nutcracker, which is a blend of various hard liquors and fruit juices. He is currently on post-production for the film about the alcoholic beverage titled Nutcracker. Inc as well as “Love is the Message” the true story of DJ and record producer Larry Levan and the New York nightclub the Paradise Garage.
Leading man Rayniel Rufino is an actor/musician and plays the role of Diego Santiago. Rufino was raised in Washington Heights and started acting seven years ago in commercials and films such as Liberty Kid and Sugar (HBO). Currently he is staring in the Sci-Fi thriller “Biodegradable” directed by Juan Basanta and shot in the Dominican Republic. The musician who also goes by the name Rubi Rosa contributed two songs to the film soundtrack including “A New Day” the movie’s closing song. Recently he made his rapping debut with “Plastic Cup.”
Antonio Ortiz plays Javy began acting at the age of three and has worked on television, various commercials and a PSA for Michelle Obama. His TV credits include “NYC 22”, “Gravity”, and “Mercy” amongst others. His film credits include “3 Backyards”, “Illegal Tender” and “Just Like the Son.” The young talented actor would eventually like to write a book about his late grandmother.
Luis Antonio Ramos plays Uncle Jose has been acting for over 30 years in television and film. Some of his film credits include “Do the Right Thing” “The Ministers” “Latin Dragon” “Checking Out” and “The Miracle in Spanish Harlem.” He recently finished the off Broadway one- man show “Growing up Gonzalez” where he plays thirty-two different characters. In the new play “Salsa Nights” Ramos plays the lead about nightlife and love in NYC.
Olga Merediz as Gloria has been Tony nominated in 2008 for her role as Abuela Claudia in the musical “In the Heights.” Recently she was featured in films like “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” with Jim Carrey, “The Place beyond the Pines” with Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes, “Fugly” with John Leguizamo and “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn” with Robin Williams and Mila Kunis. Currently she stars in the play “The Killing of Sister George” alongside Kathleen Turner.
To view upcoming events for the UPCA go to http://unitedpalace.org/
To view the trailer: http://www.troubleintheheights.com/
Photos by: Ralph Vargas