Nicky Jam: El Ganador might focus specifically on a chart-topping global sensation, but its appeal is in how it deals with universal themes through a cultural lens.
New on Netflix today, at least in Latin America, Spain and here in England, is Nicky Jam: El Ganador, the biographical original series that chronicles the rise, fall and subsequent “rebirth” of mega-popular award-winning reggaeton singer-songwriter Nicky Jam, who plays himself in the series.
One version of himself, anyway. The 13-episode series (shot in México, Colombia, Puerto Rico and New York, and produced by Endemol Shine Boomdog for Netflix and Telemundo, which holds the release rights for the United States and Puerto Rico) bounces around through various time periods, tones, countries and cultures; Avery Rodríguez plays him as a child, while singer and rapper Darkiel plays a slightly older version.
Nicky Jam: El Ganador presumes a certain familiarity with the titular artist and an investment in his rise to fame, his struggle with drug and alcohol addiction, his fall, his relocation to Colombia and his resulting rejuvenation. Anyone checking out the documentary series will likely have that familiarity with the Latin Grammy winner already, but the universality of his from-the-ashes story will likely be enough to satisfy anyone who doesn’t.
Executive produced and directed by Jessy Terrero, best-known as a director of music videos, Nicky Jam: El Ganador taps into what’s compelling about redemption and against-all-odds success, but he has another agenda in how he filters those broadly relatable themes through the specificity of Latino culture. Due to his close connections to the reggaeton music scene, Terrero is a Latino filmmaker speaking directly to a Latino audience, repurposing a specific musical wave that has given Latino artists a visible pop-cultural platform to display their authentic stories on the world’s most popular streaming service.
In that sense, Nicky Jam: El Ganador is an important piece of long-form work that speaks to an oft-underserved demographic. But it’s also a compelling story, told clearly and well, that should appeal everyone.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.