Documentary filmmaker Jeremy Lopez's new film focuses on the man who may be the nicest DJ in the game. Chris Villa is a humble guy, free of the drama that can be associated with this profession. He doesn't drink much, doesn't womanize, and doesn't pick fights. Instead, he focuses on his craft. The element of his muted personality that comes through the most is his love of being a DJ. He takes his job seriously and it has led him to be one of the best DJs in the world.
Comprised of mostly talking head interviews, One For All frames itself around Villa's preparation for a competition that will determine the US representative at the world DJing competition. Using archival footage, the film traces Villa's rise as he gets spots on radio stations and bigger party gigs. Along the way, his wife and family provide him with support and love. Villa's quiet nature may be at odds with what you pictured a hugely successful DJ to be. He is a devoted family man who purposely avoids the party lifestyle that comes with the profession.
The film is at its strongest when it focuses on Villa's devotion to his craft. We get a few great moments as he prepares his set for the competition. These scenes are fleeting but they offer a glimpse into Villa's methods. I wish there were more of these moments. It would have been fascinating to see him craft one big moment in his set. The film's third act is mostly live footage of the competition but viewers unfamiliar with the art of DJIng may not be fully aware of the feats Villa pulls off. Lopez may assume audiences know what a DJ does but if you don't, you may be a little lost. Lopez is clearly more interested in Villa as a person than the DJing.
It's a good thing that Villa is so likable and willing to be honest about his life then. However, the focus of the film strays at times because of this focus on Villa over his craft. For example, we get a segment on his parenting style. While charming, it is moments like this that detract from the growing momentum of the upcoming competition Villa faces.
When the competition does come, Lopez strangely shoots it with more focus on the audience than the DJs. Perhaps this is due to a lack of permission to film the other DJs at the competition. No matter what prevented showing the other top DJs doing their thing, it means the film's climax lacks some tension. We do get to see Villa's entire set and it is incredible.
The film often journey's down side paths that don't offer much insight, particularly when the film includes interview goofs and the reactions to a possible ghost on set. The ghost thread eventually turns into something moving about Villa's mother but the way it is introduced is clunky.
One For All: The DJ Chris Villa Story tries to cover too much. It splits its focus on Villa's life and his prep for this competition. Neither element is wholly satisfying but collectively they make for a frequently charming and interesting film. Scattershot as the film can feel, it still held my attention. I walked away understanding the duality of DJ Chris Villa. His mixing skills are amazing, his passion for music is palpable, and he pushes against
the stereotypes associated with the profession.
One For All could use a more focused edit that would bring in newbies to the art of DJing while preserving the intimate portrait of a family man in a profession that doesn't cater to being one. For fans of DJing, you may want a bit more of Villa's techniques explained but you will walk away with a mad appreciation for the man. For those unfamiliar, the final act's long performances may not be interesting but you will be uplifted by Villa's good nature.