"Shake it like you're Puerto Rican," says Paps to his three sons in an exclusive clip from the film We The Animals, starring Raul Castillo as the patriarch. The drama, based on the hit novel by Justin Torres with the same name, tells the story of three mixed-race brothers who live in upstate New York finding their place in the world amidst a tumultuous home life full of strife.
The clip shows a scene from a happier moment in the lives of Jonah (Evan Rosado), Manny (Isaiah Kristian), and Joel (Josiah Gabriel) as they learn dance moves from their dad in the kitchen. As Bobby Quesada's famous "Bataola Boogaloo" plays in the background, Paps goofs around with them before taking their Ma (Sheila Vand) for a spin on the dance floor.
This scene comes straight from Torres' book where the father tells the boys, “You ain’t white and you ain’t Puerto Rican. Watch how a purebred dances, watch how we dance in the ghetto.”
— We The Animals Film (@TheAnimalsFilm) July 23, 2018
Although the novel is a fictional story, many of the situations reflect the life of author Torres, who is of Italian and Irish descent on his mother's side and Puerto Rican from his father's. This particular scene represents moments in his life where he didn't feel like he fit in with either culture while feeling very much a part of both worlds, according to an interview with Electric Lit.
"I grew up in a very, very white town," Torres said in the interview that took place in 2011. "A small town in central New York. We certainly stuck out on our block. Our parents were so young, so Brooklyn and our father was so Puerto Rican, I mean, the only Puerto Rican for probably a thirty-mile radius.
So everything in the book resonates with me on a personal level, yes. I think I wrote that scene because there is a certain lose-lose attitude towards being mixed race. You ain’t this, you ain’t that.
And I wanted to express that, but also, that’s a pretty joyous scene as well. I think that there is a bounty to being able to dip into this or that the other category.
I’m no longer the class I was growing up, I no longer claim the sexuality I was expected and raised to have, but I feel like I have access to all of it, to so many worlds, at the same time I feel like I don’t belong."
We the Animals, which has already garnered a lot of positive reactions from critics, will open in select theaters on August 17.