Native New Yorker Eric Eason makes an auspicious debut with Manito, an electrifying story set in Manhattan's Washington Heights that charts the differences between two brothers over 24 hours leading to a night that could derail both their lives. Washington Heights is a neighborhood rarely seen on screen and one still in transition from a crack trade infestation that nearly wiped it from the map to the city's most visible up-and-coming middleclass Hispanic community. Manito's two brothers straddle that divide. Manny (Leo Minaya) is about to graduate high school at the head of his class and head for college, and his family is throwing a blowout party in his honor. Older brother Junior (Frankie G.) is a former drug dealer and ex-con who now runs a thriving house-painting business. Both would like to forget their father, a bodega owner whose shadowy criminal past is ominously suggested without being explained. As gritty as the city streets it's shot on, Manito is a not-to-be-missed coming-of-age-in-the-city story that's also a cinema-verité style portrait of a richly detailed community.
Eric Eason is a New York City-based filmmaker whose first feature, Manito, won the Special Jury Prize at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival and 14 other awards at festivals around the world, including the American Express Emerging Filmmaker Award at the 2002 Tribeca Film Festival. Manito, released theatrically in 2003, went on to win the Gotham Award and received three Independent Spirit nominations.