One for All: The DJ Chris Villa Story is a relatively straightforward music documentary with a twist: The star artist, DJ Chris Villa, is a strait-laced, good-hearted guy with a loving wife, beautiful children he’s attentive to, a supportive extended family and a talent that has allowed him to practice his art as a profession. In one of the first interviews conducted for the film, Villa almost seems guilty he doesn’t have more drama to offer filmmaker Jeremy A. Lopez. He even talks about having considered quitting many times to get a more “traditional” job for the sake of his family, only to be encouraged out of it by his friends and family.
The inherently positive nature of Villa and his world ultimately works in the story’s favor when he eventually starts competing as one of six top U.S. finalists for the Red Bull 3Style World Championship (the “Olympics of DJ-ing”). We don’t hope Villa wins because he’s the movie’s hero and it will redeem him in some fashion; we just want this decent guy to feel rewarded for all the hard work he put into his career alongside being an all-around good dude.
Lopez speaks with Villa’s wife, Terra, and his father, brothers and old friends to craft a lifelong portrait of his subject. Chris started mixing music at an early age and eventually broke into working as a DJ professionally on the radio. Villa’s profile grew through strong work and intelligent social media usage, and he credits his strong family life growing up and his relationship with Terra as the foundation for his success. He can only joke about living the life most people associate with DJs — working in nightclubs, drinking complimentary drinks and partying all night. He was never about that life and sees the alternative he has chosen as a strength from which to draw.
As part of Villa’s story, One for All also features a large amount of performance footage — not just for Villa but his fellow competitors at the 3Style World Championship. As someone who doesn’t know much about the art of DJ-ing, I’ll admit most of the footage did very little for me. Narratively, it contributes to the competition aspect of the third act, but it feels like audiences with surface-level knowledge won’t glean much about who put on the “best” show. The performances don’t create a sense of tension because judging them without a proper understanding of the medium means little judgment at all. We’re all rooting for Villa anyway. If I had one critique of Lopez’s film, it would be the depth with which he approaches filming these performances at the end of the film.
That’s personal taste, however. Fans of DJ work are likely more attuned to the world of professional DJ-ing and may be more interested in this material. To be clear: It’s a catharsis at the end to watch Villa himself perform, given how deeply we witness his process and all of the work he spends creating his sets months ahead of time. This was much easier before he became a parent and career musician who must play gigs to make ends meet, but his perseverance is the point and it’s a strong story at the film’s core.
On paper, it seems pretty crazy to promise a music documentary about an artist whose main drama has nothing to do with classic addiction or weakness — a guy who just worries about being a good dad and doing his absolute best onstage at the same time. It’s a positive, refreshing story.