THE BOY FROM MEDELLIN – Review By Gadi Elkon

Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-Winning filmmaker Matthew Heineman latest documentary dives into reggaeton star J Balvin’s return show in his hometown of Medellin.  The film documents his struggles with anxiety and the growing tension in his country.

THE BOY FROM MEDELLÍN follows J Balvin as he prepares for the most important concert of his career–a sold-out stadium show in his hometown of Medellín, Colombia.

Matthew Heineman’s returns to the documentary world after he made a jarring fiction (historically based) feature debut, A Private War.  Heineman’s ability to follow important timely issued based material has garnered him numerous awards and a beloved status in the doc world.  The Boy From Medellin is easily his most singular based doc as he follows reggaeton star J Balvin in the weeks leading up to his epic hometown concert.

The film’s cinematography by Heineman, Drew Daniels, Clair Popkin and Max Preiss is exceptional.  If meant to be a fly-on-the-wall look into J Balvin’s life this is a super robot fly version that has every angle perfectly captured.  We see the inner entourage, the emotional isolated Balvin, and the quality behind-the-scenes of the epic concert.  The protests that engulf and still impact Colombia today are slightly captured with extra TV footage and radio broadcasts.  Overall the cinematic elements of the documentary are just further examples that Heineman is still one of the most important doc filmmakers around.

If there are issues in the film it’s the myopic view point of the subject we get.  Since we don’t venture further into the protests and the turmoil that surrounds J Balvin’s return to his homeland we are left a little aloof.  His honesty in explaining his struggles with anxiety and a past drug problem don’t fully explain the tough situation his silence to Medellin’s protests further alienates him.  There is a brief twitter battle that does get a unique real life face-to-face discussion moment that could have been the highlight of the film.  Sadly we don’t see any resolution to this fan meet up with Balvin.  Instead we jump directly into his anxiety on putting on the biggest show in his hometown.  This all though is tough to blame on the filmmaker.  It is not always an option to dictate how or what to cover in the doc realm.  So minus this exterior issue being slightly not covered it’s hard to find fault in what we gather from The Boy From Medellin.

Not a reflective biography but rather a slice of life taken from Balvin’s unique stardom is a nice treat.  Heineman’s full access really is showcased and Balvin not only gains our sympathies but seems like a star worthy of his tremendous success.  His devotion to his inner-circle and family seems genuine.  Even his battling with anxiety appears truthful and inspirational for what it means to his fan base that may similarly deal with their own anxiety.  Heineman has given us an intimate portrayal that happens among a massive event like a stadium filled to capacity.  The concert elements are completely over any notion of a zenith with it’s 4 hour plus duration as well as the incredible vibrant show itself.  Balvin’s return to his hometown certainly isn’t what he expected or even hoped.

The boy that dreamed of an epic return to Medellin was transformed into a man who now knows his truth amongst his hometown’s difficult reality.

The Boy From Medellin is now available on Amazon and is a real gem of an introspective take on stardom while still being an entertaining and enlightening show.

Directed by: Matthew Heineman

Subject:  J Balvin

Rated: R

Selig Rating: 4 Stars

Running Time: 1hr 30min

Documentary

On Amazon Today.

 

The Selig Rating Scale:

5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.

4 Stars – Good movie

3 Stars – OK movie

2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.

1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.

 

José Balvin in THE BOY FROM MEDELLÍN
© 2020 SCV JB CONCERT DOC PROJECT, LLC

 

 

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