Director Angel Manuel Soto Focuses On ‘Heart of the Story’ Behind ‘Charm City Kings’

Soto elaborates on how he approached his feature with a naturalistic tone and why he loves the Dardenne Brothers feature "The Son"

Charm City Kings absolutely impressed me with its naturalistic and cinematic approach to storytelling, Director Angel Manuel Soto talked to Deepest Dream about balancing both forms to craft a first rate narrative. The feature, headlined by Jahi Di’Allo Winston, hits HBO Max on October 8.

Director Angel Manuel Soto is a self-taught filmmaker, and a big part of his education stemmed from devouring international cinema during his teen years. Though he has the tools to make a visually flashy and expressive film with Charm City Kings, he actually mixed some of those flourishes with, more importantly, grounded storytelling.

Jahi Di’Allo Winston’s remarkable performance as Mouse, a 14-year-old teen who is immersed in the bike culture of West Baltimore, is also a huge part of Charm City Kings’ effectiveness. Meek Mill as Blax, an ex-con who takes Mouse under his wing, also delivers the goods in a nuanced role.

Jahi Di’Allo Winston (Mouse), Meek Mill (Blax) Photograph by HBO Max / William Gray

How can a director from Puerto Rico craft such a rich story about a youth in Baltimore? The key for Soto is to focus on the people and not fetishize the actual location. “It’s very easy, in my case, to not get distracted by the unknown,” said Soto. “When you focus on the heart of the story.”

The audio version of my interview with Angel Manuel Soto is featured on the CinemAdddicts podcast. During the end of the talk he discusses why the Dardenne Brothers feature The Son is a personal favorite:

Charm City Kings debuts on HBO Max come October 8. 

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