It’s been almost a year since Netfilx and Baz Luhrmann announced that they were embarking on producing a series based in the South Bronx in the 1970s as hip-hop was emerging, disco was reigning supreme alongside Salsa, and of course—The Bronx was burning.
Netflix simply writes, “Told through the lives and music of a ragtag crew of South Bronx teens, The Get Down is a mythic saga of the transformation of 1970s New York City.
When it was first announced, there was much excitement yet many folks who lived through this era of the South Bronx had a “proceed with caution” attitude, myself included. I mean for far too long outsiders are telling our narratives and there are worries that such stories in the hands of Hollywood big shots like Luhrmann would be watered down or as usual, just not told “right”.
As the first trailer is released, at a first glance, it appears that perhaps Baz and crew along with Netflix may have done it justice but I’ll hold full verdict until actually watching the entire series since you can’t base anything completely off a trailer. (By the way, Baz, we haven’t forgotten that you attended and lent your name as host to the awful “Piano District Gentrification Party” so let’s hope your piece isn’t as tone deaf as your appearance in the party was).
The first thing one notices in the trailer is that there appears to be a lack of Latinos, something which we expressed concerns over when the casting was announced.
Puerto Ricans were by far the dominant Latino group in the South Bronx making up a majority chunk of the population in the area. In fact, Latinos in the late 70’s were a larger group than African Americans by that time so visually the trailer doesn’t appear to be too representative of the area and decade.
In fact out of the 9 cast members that appear in the series 13 episodes scheduled to come out later this year, 3 appear to be Latino but only 2 Latinos, including Jimmy Smits and leading lady Herizen Guardiola as Mylene Cruz, play these rolls. The rest of the Latino casts appear in supporting roles but are far and few in between to tell the full story of the era especially Hip-Hop which latinos played a huge role in.
Besides that glaring omission of the Latino population in the trailer and what appears to be the main cast, there is a feel of authenticity to that era. There doesn’t appear to be any sugar coating at all of the strife and violence that filled the lives of so many Bronxites in those days and hopefully it won’t be constantly on display and is relegated to be the backdrop to the series.
The trailer does shows the vibrancy of LIFE that, despite what the narratives told coming out during that time by outsiders, was permeating the area and borough.
In one of the clips in the trailer, you can tell that the producers and directors are heavily influenced by some of the photography of Joe Conzo Jr and one scene is almost identical to one of his many iconic photographs.
Conzo Jr on Facebook said, “Honored to be asked to document #TheGetDown Series on Netflix and have my photos as reference images!”
Then there’s another clip where the characters are climbing atop the famous rock in St Mary’s Park on 149th Street that anyone who grew up in the South Bronx knows well.
Like I said earlier, I’m still holding out on judging the entire series based on 2 minutes and 58 seconds of footage.
Until then, let’s continue to hope for something mediocre at best and come out happy that it turns out better than anticipated.