Sundance 2020: Siempre, Luis (Always, Luis)

A still from Siempre, Luis by John James, an official selection of the Special Events program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Carlos Garciade Dios.

Siempre, Luis is a documentary that tells the story of Puerto Rican political activist Luis A. Miranda Jr., also known as the father of Lin-Manuel Miranda.

It’s unknown yet as to how the film will change when HBO airs it later.  At the world premiere screening, there was a scene after the end credits.  Will this stay the same for the television premiere or be moved to before the credits?

Even if Luis A. Miranda Jr. hadn’t been the father of Hamilton and In The Heights creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, he would still make for a compelling documentary subject.  It just so happens that his son has created a few musicals so that’s an added plus.  During the three years that filmmaker John James followed them around, Luis was working on a number of Democratic campaigns.  We cannot forget Hurricane Maria’s battering of Puerto Rico.  This led to the Miranda family doing all they could to raise money for the island.  There’s also opening Hamilton at the university, a process that would not come easy at all.  More on this later.

The short story: Luis Miranda went from Puerto Rico to New York City in the 1970s.  Like anyone else, he had dreams of what he wanted to do.  It was never supposed to be a permanent move.  Throughout the years, he would become a major Puerto Rican activist and strategist working with Democratic campaigns.  He proved to be beneficial for both Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton’s campaigns for the Senate.  On Schumer’s campaign before meeting him, there was “not a prayer” of winning!  Taking on the job was meant to help win the Latino vote.  Through working on Democratic campaigns, Latino politics and culture would become mainstream.

This is a man that works late into the night while getting very little sleep.  Obviously, things should have changed following his 2016 heart attack.  Sleeping?  Not so much.  Only about five and a half hours per night.  It’s slightly better than before.  The only area of his life that was off limits during filming was the bathroom.  Access to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s life?  Not a problem especially given the close relationship between father and son.  In seeing Luis Miranda’s work ethic, we see how the apple does not fall far from the tree.

It just so happens that Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico during production.  Luis Miranda and Lin-Manuel Miranda immediately got to work.  This should come as no surprise to anyone.  The two of them have an amazing work ethic.  They recruited major Latino stars in Los Angeles and Miami to help record “Almost Like Praying” to benefit their home.  Behind the scenes, he was also helping to bring the award-winning Hamilton musical to the island.  Almost as soon as it was announced on campus, there were protesters on the scene.  Okay, so that may be a setback but nowhere near the setback that was still to come.

Luis A. Miranda Jr. left home with a dream.  He’s still a big fan of Debbie Reynolds and The Unsinkable Molly BrownSiempre, Luis offers fascinating insight not just into his life but that of the Miranda family.  He might not be working as hard as before but he’s still very supportive of his family.  Alexander Hamilton is Luis Miranda or so that’s how Lin-Manuel Miranda tells the story in Siempre, Luis.

DIRECTOR:  John James
FEATURING:  Luis A. Miranda Jr., Lin-Manuel Miranda

Siempre, Luis held its world premiere during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in the Special Events program. HBO has acquired the rights. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.