Listen To My Song is the honest and meaningful new documentary from filmmaker Danny Mitchell. It’s a profound story that details the journey of Esteban, a young Colombian who is trying to get a rap career up and running. After fleeing home at 13 to become a guerrilla fighter for the FARC movement, Esteban returns to civilisation at 26. Now a man, he must come to terms with a lost adolescence as he begins his search for happiness in a country whose 50-year civil war ended as recently as 2016.
Music appears to be the way out for Esteban: a way out of the guerrilla life, and a way of reconciling himself with his family. He is spotted whilst performing at a FARC political rally, and soon hooks up with well-known producer Pablo Araoz. Esteban’s gentle nature gives off a mysterious air, one that alludes to the tough life he has lived over the past decade or more. Now using a guitar rather than the rifle to convey his message, he seems to be on a journey that speaks for the nation’s healing process as a whole.
A scene where he plays guitar to his sister sees Esteban break down in tears, before saying, “this is the first time I have cried in years”. This is gut-wrenching viewing. Music, or more importantly, family, thaws out the cold and hard front he built up, fighting in the jungle.
This gritty piece from Mitchell earns its stripes through the insight it offers into the damages suffered by a family when a young member leaves. His father, auntie and sister all admit to believing they would never see him again, assuming his death was another statistic in a brutal war. In a moment shared with his auntie in her hair salon, Esteban is quizzed and pressed about all that happened in those lost years stuck in combat. She tells of how the FARC Rebels were painted as murderous animals by the media, rendering any credible principles or morals they had, as worthless.
Esteban’s search for inner peace and success in music is a grain of sand in the rebuilding of Colombia, but it is a grain that holds plenty of hope. Ending with a shot of the young man performing on stage, it is easy to see that he is now where he is meant to be.
Listen To My Song is being screened as part of London's Doc 'N Roll Film Festival. Grab your tickets here.