The Boy From Medellin sheds much-needed light on Colombia’s social and political dilemma through the eyes of its biggest reggaeton star J. Balvin
The Boy From Medellín showcased a quick inside look at the life of the Colombian reggaeton singer Jose Balvin otherwise known by his stage name J Balvin. Shot over the span of a week before the biggest concert of his career, he brought to light a few things that were looming over his mind and his country of Colombia. The history of Colombia has always been rather violent and racked with malcontent between its government and people. Though many of the protesters voiced their concerns for different reasons, the common topic of disdain was for its inadequate government.
The protests that were shown in the documentary were actually a national strike called in by “labor unions after rumors spread about reforms and pension cuts – proposals never formally announced by the government. The call for the strike came as university students continued to protest against corruption and cuts in public education.” according to Aljazeera.com. And the country has had enough of the violence, something even J Balvin said in the documentary was that he didn’t want to focus on politics. But rather that he wanted to bring light to the world that his home has been defined by the Narcos and stereotypes; and that his dream was to change that image.
Calling Colombia a country of culture, peace, love, and tolerance. So the struggle between wanting to help his country and not wanting to get involved was concrete. Cause he was damned if he did, and damned if he didn’t. He was often called wishy-washy for not taking a true stand for or against the protests or the government’s reaction to the protests prior to the concert. Only during the concert did he truly make his voice heard.
Calling legislation to listen to the youth because they were marching for necessity and that he hopes that the youth helps shape his home for his future kids. The country of Colombia is done with the violence it’s had to deal with and it wants its leaders to take action “which has been blamed in part on Duque’s slow implementation of the 2016 peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), signed during the previous administration” from Aljazeera.com.
Aside from the political unrest in his country, the singer has struggled with depression and anxiety. Something that he shows throughout the documentary. Revealing that when first coming to the United States, he worked all day as a home painter and he struggled as an artist. Not wanting to come home a failure, he became depressed and struggled mentally; often taking many sleeping pills just to be able to relax his mind from it all. And when he started to become an artist, he began leading a double life; working all day to make ends meet and singing everywhere and anywhere they would allow him.
He started to lose himself to the industry and realized that in order to help make himself happy and content, he would have to be true to himself and forget the fake him. Only by staying in the present would he be able to focus on the things around him and make himself better. “I’m like any human being. I’m fragile and vulnerable, possibly more than all of you.” The young artist said in an interview with USA Today.
And watching him in his documentary I could see how the life of an artist takes its toll on anybody. People wanting a picture, hug, or autograph but ultimately ending that fan/artist relationship at that. Him simply going to the gym, people stopped and stared, took photos of him, and recorded him. That can get exhausting after a while. His openness has helped other artists not feel lonely or weak. His admittance is rare in people, admitting their problems to someone close is one thing, but to a world of adoring fans, is a completely different level.
“It’s ok not to be okay.” He said in a podcast with Becky G. He encourages his listeners to be real with their feelings and seek help because he did. And although it may not have cured him instantly, it has helped him slowly get back to normal. “No matter what, never pretend, be you.”
In an online press conference, that I was fortunate enough to attend, he admitted that the pandemic was hard on him because he was not used to the quietness the pandemic and lockdown brought. And hopes with this documentary, he could bring a little bit of the vibe from his concerts back to his fans and the people.
His music was featured in the background of the film even before the concert took place. Showing fans all over the world dancing choreographed moves to “Mi Gente”. I even found myself dancing in my seat and resonating with the aura of his culture. And really listening to his lyrics made me feel included even though I don’t hail from Colombia. “My music does not discriminate so let’s go breaking, all my people move, look at the rhythm it has them.” In an interview with Jimmy Fallon, he said he does all of his songs only in Spanish “Even though they don’t understand what I’m saying, they feel the vibe.” And its beautiful shedding light on his culture and language.
During the online press conference I attended, he was asked what the message of the documentary was. People always want a deeper meaning behind things and the “what was the real reason” behind the documentary. Was it to bring awareness to the political unrest? Help Colombia out of the shadow of violence and drugs? Bring awareness to the importance of mental health? José Álvaro Osorio Balvín simply answered that there was no message in his documentary.
His goal was to show people a little bit about what went on behind the scenes and life, and he did just that. Every one of his advisors, managers, and friends each gave their thoughts and opinions to Balvin and he considered their words very carefully and never acted rashly. Even admitted to a certain OCD behavior of wanting to make sure everyone he met got a hug or picture with him because he didn’t want anyone to feel forgotten or left out.
Ultimately, The Boy From Medellin shows J Balvin’s very human life and struggle with wanting to do the right thing for his country and people without dirtying his vibe with the ugliness of politics but stepping up when needed. He knows his country is more than a history of narcos and violence and sees the beauty in the youth because that is the energy that gives his music life. “I need my city, I need to feel this energy.”
The Boy From Medellin is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.
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Been writing all my life, and it’s humbling to see it published. Lover of all things nerdy, gamer, pop culture, and most of all DISNEY. I may not know it all, but give me time and a laptop.