A new documentary on J Balvin set out to explore the rise to world fame of a young man from Medellín. But with the protests in Colombia as a backdrop, it became a meditation on the social responsibility of artists.

Filmed in 2019 and released this Friday -when Balvin turns 36- “The Boy from Medellin” offers viewers a chance to follow the reggaeton superstar as he prepares for a great concert in his hometown that closed his international tour that year. , which included a hit show on the main stage of the Coachella festival.

But in the week before the sold-out concert, Colombia plunged into tragic chaos, with the death of a teenager in the wake of police violence against protesters critical of President Iván Duque’s tough policies.

The demonstrations threatened to overshadow or even suspend Balvin’s great night. Much of director Matthew Heineman’s documentary focuses on the singer’s internal dilemmas as he faces pressure to speak out about his country’s socio-political problems, and criticism for his reluctance to do so.

Born José Álvaro Osorio Balvin into a middle-class family from Medellín, the artist centers his brand on an inclusive pride in the culture and language of Latin America that led him to fame.

The Latin Grammy winner helped cement the reputation of reggaeton – an amalgam of Puerto Rican rhythms and immensely popular hip hop influence – as a vital force in pop throughout the Americas and the world.

In the documentary, he hopes that his art will help overcome the stereotypes of Colombia as a bastion of drug violence and lead fans to look beyond the war of more than half a century between the guerrillas, the paramilitaries and the forces. of the government.

“Our job is to entertain,” he tells a local journalist, in one of the moments that, together with his silence about the protests, generates criticism and pushes him to find his political voice.

– “Stop this senseless civil war” –

Finally he talks about the subject at the concert at the behest of his manager Scooter Braun. The music mogul is an executive producer on the film, and known for his public feuds with Taylor Swift, another artist who has long remained apolitical for fear of alienating her fans.

“When I wanted to be an artist, I didn’t run for a politician,” Balvin told reporters at a conference before the film was released.

“But then you start to realize that you have a more powerful voice than the politicians.”

“If you talk, it’s bad. If you don’t speak, it’s bad too. So at least you try ”.

The film, which can be seen on Amazon Prime, also focuses on Balvin’s mental health issues, which fuel his anxiety about the pressures of his position as a public figure.

“There can be a lot of people suffering who don’t even know what they have,” he told reporters, explaining his decision to speak about his years of battling depression and anxiety.

“If I can give you a little light in the dark, why not?”

The diffusion of the documentary this Friday comes at a time when Colombia is suffering another period of unrest. Thousands of protesters marching for days in widely peaceful street protests against Duque’s health, education and inequality policies have faced deadly violence.

According to official figures, at least 24 people have died – more according to the Oenegés – while the security forces try to control the protesters. The leaders of the marches denounce the violence as exorbitant.

This time Balvin was quicker to react. “We need peace and love, control of the situation was lost. This is about human rights, ”he said this week.

“@Ivanduquemarquez let’s stop this civil war. All my colleagues and superstars (artists, athletes, etc) please help me and help us spread the message, “he wrote in a message on Instagram half in English, half in Spanish.

“We need to stop this senseless civil war.”

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