He’s the Colombian reggaetonero who’s the living example that hard work does pay off (and that dreams do come true). Once a Jay Z fan, to now being his friend, the Made in Medellin superstar gives us an insight into his personal journey.
Born and raised in the streets of Castilla (Medellin), Matthew Heineman’s new documentary gives us intimate access to Jose Alvaro Osorio Balvin ‘s personal life over the course of a week; the tense week leading up to his first sold-out stadium concert in his hometown (Nov. 30, 2019). At the same time, massive student protests have erupted against the government of President Ivan Duque.
From anxiety and depression, to his apolitical stance, “El Niño de Medellín” comes at a time where once again Colombia’s political climate is in crisis. The rising tension between government forces and the young people who are taking to the streets to demand change, have resulted in an increasing number of deaths. And just like back in 2019, history repeats itself with social media users slamming him “The Lukewarm Boy from Medellin.”
The hour-length bio doc starts off with a concert in Mexico, where the artist states on stage he’s Colombian and proud, whilst also making it clear (from the very beginning) his unbiased political views.
Opening up about his mental struggles, he cites his favorite song from Puerto Rican Salsa legend Héctor Lavoe, ‘El Cantante’, which speaks of a singer who is glorified when on stage, but when the show is over he’s just another human being. A powerful scene indeed, where the artist sings the lyrics “And nobody asks if I suffer or cry, If I carry sorrow that hurts deeply. At this point, it is apparent that anxiety and depression are no longer a stigma for Balvin.
The Oscar nominated director puts together clips of Jose’s days as an immigrant painting houses in Miami, his first few performances in the early 2000’s and unedited concert footage. Speaking directly to the camera, the reggaeton reggaeton icon says “You gotta go through hell in order to go to heaven”.
Throughout the film, there are snapshots of his engagement with fans as well as private scenes of Balvin with his close ones – family, friends, girlfriend and team members. His spiritual advisor and psychiatrist are also in the frame; for Balvin meditation and medication have literally been his salvation.
Highlighting the responsibilities that come with stardom, his manager Scooter Braun urges him to speak out and reconsider his scale of impact as an artist, which sometimes comes with a duty; to take a stand on global social issues. But in the midst of it all, Balvin expresses it’s difficult to balance personal views with fandom expectations.
April 2021, and public opinion pressures rise again for the boy from Medellin – being apolitical and remaining silent often comes with a negative perception. And though he has faced criticism for his political disengagement in the past, not voicing his opinion this time round has clearly deemed him a distant figure in his homeland, Colombia.