- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
J Balvin may not yet be able to tour amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but that didn’t stop him from taking over a Los Angeles stadium on Thursday night.
Balvin-centered documentary The Boy From Medellin premiered at the Rose Bowl just before its Friday release, marking another step forward for pandemic-safe in-person events. The Amazon doc, directed by Cartel Land‘s Matthew Heineman, follows the reggaeton superstar in the week leading up the biggest show of his life, a November 2019 sold-out stadium show in his hometown of Medellín, Colombia. While he’s preparing for the performance, Colombia breaks out in a string of violent protests against the government, putting the show in jeopardy and pushing Balvin — real name José Álvaro Osorio Balvin — into an activist role he is reluctant to accept.
A year and a half later, the film is coming out during another wave of protests in Colombia, which has seen upwards of 25 people killed as protestors and police clashed in recent days.
Heineman addressed the film’s timeliness during his pre-screening speech, saying, “Even though The Boy From Medellin was shot over a year ago, the protests that have erupted in the past week show that the people of Colombia are still struggling. Over 30 protestors have been killed in the streets, and our hearts go out to all of those who are grieving right now. The fight for a more equitable world and the challenge to figure out how we, as individuals, commit to that are universal themes that I hope we can all meditate on tonight.”
While the Rose Bowl has been a popular destination for drive-in events this past year, Thursday was among the first of L.A.’s return to in-person celebrations as restrictions are eased and vaccines are widely available. The event saw the stadium field set up with more than 100 “private pods” — a table and two chairs decorated with blankets and pillows, along with a picnic-style dinner courtesy of Wolfgang Puck catering, arranged in front of a large inflatable screen. Servers brought by a selection of alcoholic beverages, and movie snacks and an on-site cotton candy machine completed the theater experience. Billboards throughout the stadium were also converted to images of Balvin and the film, and guests were allowed to pick complimentary items from a merch booth rivaling those at the star’s concerts. Masks were required when leaving one’s pod.
Balvin was not in attendance but Heineman thanked him for “is trust, for his vulnerability in allowing us to tell his story in such an intimate way” and detailed how the two met and bonded over their mental health journeys.
“I first met José in 2019 after he played a show at Madison Square Garden. I was immediately struck at how down to earth he was, how open he was, especially about his struggles with mental health. And since I’ve struggled with PTSD and anxiety as well, we really connected over this,” the director said. He also revealed the original concept of the film was simply to follow Balvin as he prepared for his Medellin show, but transformed when protests broke out.
The Boy From Medellin is streaming now on Amazon.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day