Troy Beyer and Jason Gedrick

ROOFTOPS—a film that revolves around a group of homeless teens in Alphabet City, New York who make their homes on the roofs of buildings—marks Wise's return to the screen as director after a ten-year hiatus.

Alex Cruz and Wise

Alex Cruz and Wise

Wise was very adamant about distinguishing ROOFTOPS from other musicals: " is not a musical, it is a romantic comedy with music and dance."*

The film gave Wise a chance to work with young people again in an urban setting and to also approach the issue of homelesness from a different angle: "Somehow, whenever this subject is approached, the kids with no families who have to fend for themselves are rarely mentioned."*

Synopsis A handful of youths from broken homes live in makeshift shelters on the roofs of abandoned tenements in New York City. They earn cash from plundering copper piping from other building or stripping cars for parts. T, an orphan who is muscular and fit from pumping iron outside his water-tower abode, is their mentor. T's obsession is to be the best capoeira dancer (capoeira is a karate-choppy Brazilian form of "combat" dancing) at the nighttime mixers held at a vacant lot (the Garden of Eden), where reps from the neighborhood factions hang out, drink, flirt and otherwise work of energy "fighting" each other in dance competition. The object is to knock an opponent out of a ring without touching him. There he meets Elena, the cousin to crack king Lobo. With the help of an unmerciful band of thugs, the sharkskin-suited Lobo takes over T's building and sets up shop. Lobo blames T for a police raid, and beats him to a pulp. One of T's friends, a promising graffiti artist named Squeak, goes up against Lobo and is killed. With the help of Elana and his friends, T uses capoeira techniques to avenge Squeak's death, trapping Lobo on the rooftop, where he loses his footing and falls to his death.

From Daily Variety, March 22, 1989

Rooftops Poster

Wise Facts
  • Incorporated in the dance sequences is a ritualistic martial art from Brazil called capoeira.
  • Credits: 95 min. New Visions, Distributed by: New Visions;  Directed by: Robert Wise;  Produced by: Howard W. Koch, Jr. ;  Screenplay by: Terence Brennan;  Edited by: William Reynolds;  Director of Photography: Theo Van de Sande;  Music by: David A. Stewart and Michael Kamen;  Production Design by: Jeannine C. Oppewall;  Costumes by: Kathleen Detoro;  Make-up by: Anne Pattison;  Hair by: Aaron F. Quarles;  Choreography by: John Carrafa
    Troy BeyerCast  Jason Gedrick (T), Troy Beyer (Elana), Eddie Velez (Lobo), Tisha Campbell (Amber), Alexis Cruz (Squeak), Allen Payne (Kadim), Steve Love (Jackie-Sky), Rafael Baez (Raphael), Jaime Tirelli (Rivera), Luis Guzman (Martinez), Millie Tirelli (Squeak's Mom), Robert La Sardo (Blade), Jay M. Boryea (Willie), Rockets Redglare (Carlos), Edouard de Soto (Angelo), John Canada Terrell (Junkie Cop), Bruce Smolanoff (Bones), Edythe Jason (Lois), Paul Herman (Jimmy), Lauren Tom (Audry), Stuart Rudin (Wino), Robert Weil (Hotel Clerk), Coley Wallace (Lester), Jose Inoa (Young Cook), Danny O'Shea (Rookie Narc), Herb Kerr III (Jorge), Kurt Lott (Zit), Peter Lopez (Burn), Jed James (X), Woodrow Asai (Yard Foreman), Angelo Florio (Cop at Dance), Diane Lozada (Older Sister), Imani Parks (Young Sister).

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    1. Robert Wise On His Films, p. 220
    2. Robert Wise On His Films, p. 220

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