Frankie G., Leo Minaya, Manuel Cabral, Hector Gonzalez, Julissa Lopez, Jessica Morales, Panchito Gomez
Eric Eason, John P. McGrath, Jesse Scolaro, Allen Bain, Didier Gertsch, Kyle Henry, Saundi Wilson
Writer/director Eric Eason demonstrates an uncanny ability for capturing the soul and vitality of a location and using it as a canvas on which he paints an unflinching portrait of a community rich with passion but crippled by a cycle of violence. Using contemporary cinema vérité style and fresh original writing, Manito captures the heartbeat of a neighborhood in transition—the Washington Heights section of Manhattan—as it presents this story of two brothers, Junior and Manny.
Fifteen years ago their neighborhood was dubbed the crack-cocaine capital of the world, but today it is transforming into one of the most vibrant, Spanish-speaking communities in the United States. While the drug dealers continue to disappear, their violent legacy still casts a shadow over the neighborhood and its residents. Junior (Frankie G.), an ex-convict struggling to get his life back on track, is a product of this legacy. His younger brother Manny (Leo Minaya), the salutatorian of his high school class, embodies the hope of the future. On the night of his graduation party, Manny finds himself faced with an ill-fated decision that could change his life forever.
Eason knows his subjects and their struggles, but he also knows their joy. The people in Junior and Manny's world are not glossed over, but to say the style is gritty would be a disservice. They are respectfully drawn characters full contradictions. The mostly unknown cast work together beautifully to remind us not only that our souls have bodies, but also that our spirits can be expressed in the physical world.