The Boy From Medellin (Amazon Prime) presents every week within the lifetime of J Balvin, the Colombian reggaeton celebrity who broke worldwide with hits like “Ginza” and “Mi Gente” and the Cardi B and Unhealthy Bunny collabo “I Like It.” 40 million items shifted and billions of YouTube streams later, he’s introduced all of it house to Medellin for the most important live performance of his life.
The Gist: “Reggaeton-Ton-Ton-Ton-Ton-Ton!” The mantra electrifies an unlimited Mexico Metropolis crowd as J Balvin performs one final enviornment present earlier than jetting off to Medellin, the northern Colombian metropolis the place he was born and first got here up. It’s been a whirlwind for Balvin since 2014, when his slick, hooky spin on reggaeton took the Latin music market by storm earlier than crossing over to wider viewers response with the tune “Ay Vamos” (thanks partly to its placement in Livid 7) and the mega, mega, mega hit “Ginza” from 2016, a skittering earworm with a rhythm and hook that speaks the worldwide language. As Balvin’s personal jet wings towards Medellin, a supercut of his media saturation seems — Latin Grammy hauls, appearances on Fallon and SNL; identify drops from Barack Obama. Not unhealthy for a center class child with not far more than an MPC beat machine, massive desires, and bucket a great deal of hustle. Balvin arrives at house one week out from the large gig, set to go down at Medellin’s cavernous Atanasio Girardot Stadium, and director Matthew Heineman (Cartel Land, Metropolis of Ghosts) captures the occasions of Balvin’s life as he prepares for the present.
Huddling at his glossy, modernist crib in Medellin, Balvin tells his staff how he remembers going to Atanasio 15 years in the past to see all of the reggaeton greats, “Nicky [G], [Daddy] Yankee, Ivy Queen.” Now it’s his flip. However whereas your entire metropolis pulses with pleasure in regards to the live performance, it’s additionally roiled with protest, as supporters of “The Latin Spring” take to the streets to name out Colombian president Ivan Duque and demand social and financial change. Because the week goes on and the voice of protest rises in quantity, the stress mounts on Balvin to acknowledge the motion, and choose a facet. He’s taunted on social media as “The Lukewarm Boy from Medellin.”
Along with the requires social justice remark that query what his position is as a significant Latin voice, The Boy From Medellin additionally explores the battle Balvin feels between his public persona and the private life the place he’s nonetheless simply Jose. He says the dichotomy contributed to his ongoing struggles with nervousness and melancholy, a journey he has spoken publicly about. (He’s proven doing so from the stage in Mexico Metropolis.) Because the day of the present arrives and Balvin’s staff of assistants, managers, stylists, and confidants flit about his private universe, the query of how he’ll deal with the protests turns into as necessary as his private mind-set and selecting which smash singles to carry out for his hometown crowd.
What Films Will It Remind You Of? Urbano/reggaeton star Nicky Jam, who seems on stage with J Balvin through the massive Medellin live performance, additionally options in a ten-episode Netflix dramatization of his life entitled Nicky Jam: El Ganador. For an outline of reggaeton’s fast rise to worldwide standing, try the documentary Straight Outta Puerto Rico: Reggaeton’s Tough Street to Glory (Apple+; Amazon Prime). And for those who’ve ever puzzled whether or not Daddy Yankee starred in a de facto autobiography that switched out 8 Mile‘s Detroit locales for Puerto Rico, you’re in luck, as a result of Talento de Barrio (2008) positively exists.
Efficiency Value Watching: This doc is Jose Alvaro Osorio Balvin’s present from prime to backside, and he carries himself as a worldwide baller reggaetonero with a fleet of automobiles and Ducatis and Jay-Z and DJ Khaled on velocity dial who however leads a humble, virtually ascetic existence. If there’s static in Balvin’s rise to stardom or his present movie star, it’s not included right here. However tender close-ups of the artist as a practitioner of meditation, or him methodically hand toweling his face till it looks like he hopes his options will disappear, these are incessantly on supply.
Memorable Dialogue: One of many doc’s most vibrant sequences takes place on floor stage in Comuna 13, a Medellin neighborhood as soon as infamous for crime and violence that has extra just lately been reclaimed by artists and younger households. Balvin greets his followers, poses for selfies, and calls out greetings to individuals watching from the balconies and rooftops. And he sits for a photograph surrounded by lots of and lots of of neighborhood of us, crowded across the star, beaming with pleasure, adulation, and fandom. “It was my very own metropolis who helped me increase my vitality, and lift my music,” Balvin says in voiceover. “That’s why they name me ‘El Nino de Medellin.‘”
Intercourse and Pores and skin: Nicely, Balvin takes a bathe, so for those who’re aiming to cop his tattoo recreation, you higher crank up Amazon Prime. (No naughty bits, although — get your thoughts out of the gutter.)
Our Take: The Boy From Medellin will get throughout two necessary issues about its topic: Jose Balvin, the person, completely adores his household, girlfriend, longtime friends, and hometown; and J Balvin, the celebrity, is a assemble powered by desires, however constructed on a shifting basis of tension, melancholy, panic assaults and the concern that he received’t be adequate for that metropolis — or worse, fail that very same household. In between its montages of Bentley-studded motorcades and the reaching fingers of rabid followers, Balvin speaks on to the digital camera in sit-downs that discover him musing over the character and relevance of mega-stardom, and the way finest to make the most of the platform he’s reached. It comes from a spot of honesty, however there’s additionally a twinge or two of anger, and even dismissal over what’s anticipated of an artist of his stature. “We’re purported to be the ‘presidents of the nation,’ to say what’s proper or improper, after we was once what was improper in society,” Balvin says in a mini-rant to a journalist. “What they didn’t wish to hear…” Whether or not he is aware of it or not, in moments like this, Balvin appears to disclose a model of himself that may actually quite not be tasked with answering for the questions of the protestors in any respect.
Nonetheless, he comes by means of when the second is true. Lastly, after hours and hours of music, partying, unadulterated pleasure and pure escapism, full with smoke machines, confetti, a number of costume modifications and onstage dancers emulating anime characters, the reggaetonero clutches his mic on the Antanasio present and speaks for his individuals. With the protests raging exterior the stadium, and the lights of the comunas mixing with the glare from his huge stage, Balvin says “I converse within the identify of the youth.” And after calling for a full minute of silence, the rousing finale of his hometown set feels just like the consummation of the pledge for unity, peace, and humanitarian justice that the artist was battling and the protestors have been calling for throughout your entire week of his life captured by The Boy From Medellin. It’s a becoming ending to this revealing doc.
Our Name: STREAM IT. Balvin’s celebration music vibe is invigorating, and although The Boy From Medellin may use extra stay footage, what it does include is vibrant and immersive. In a bigger sense, although, Medellin is de facto about Balvin’s very private journey towards readability and wellness.
Johnny Loftus is an impartial author and editor dwelling at giant in Chicagoland. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, All Music Information, Pitchfork Media, and Nicki Swift. Comply with him on Twitter: @glennganges