It is 2019 and protests in Colombia – the largest the country has seen in decades – have broken out against the government of President Iván Duque. The murder of 18-year-old Dilan Cruz by a police projectile is making its way into reggaeton star J Balvin’s Instagram feed, exacerbating his individual crisis.
It seems Balvin was not sleeping well. In the days leading up to a sold-out concert on November 30, 2019, in his hometown of Medellín, he begins to consider his responsibilities as a public figure. Social media users criticize his political disengagement, while uprisings in the city threaten to undo his big night.
In “The Boy from Medellín” on Amazon Prime Video, director Matthew Heineman captures a week in the life of Balvin, the Prince of Reggaeton, a charismatic performer who appears to be shy in private.
Known for his gritty documentaries on international conflicts (“Cartel Land”, “City of Ghosts”), Heineman delivers a relatively sophisticated form of celebrity publicity in this film, armed with breathtaking concert footage but an unoriginal glimpse of the films. burdens of modern fame, such as the difficulty of balancing fan expectations with personal desires.
At the very least, attending a J Balvin show seems like a lot of fun.
Heineman weaves clips of Balvin’s youth – his rambling origins in the local music scene – with snapshots of his chaotic present. As the concert approaches, Balvin appears to be on the verge of a panic attack or meditating with the help of his spiritual advisor. The destigmatization of mental illness is an important cause for Balvin, for reasons intimately apparent.
Similar recent myth creation projects such as Beyoncé’s “Homecoming” and Taylor Swift’s “Miss Americana” have generated their own publicity by providing access to curated versions of musicians’ personal lives, making them appear real and relatable. . In “The Boy from Medellín”, this curation is evident.
Before Balvin took the stage, his manager urged him to speak out and cited the activist roots of American rap group NWA. I couldn’t help but laugh at the comparison, as the artists responsible for the anthems of explicit protest probably didn’t need encouragement. to express their opinions. By “playing politics” Balvin risks alienating some fans, but he also has a good chance of winning it – viewers of this documentary, for example.
The boy from Medellín
Rated R for the language. In Spanish and English, with subtitles. Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes. Streaming on Amazon Prime Video.