James (Brian Imanuel) is a young Indonesian rapper on the cusp of stardom. He’s spent years levelling up his mic skills, and his authentic style earned him a fanbase.
James just signed with a record label that can take his career to the next level. But the label’s controlling owner Michael (Henry Ian Cusick) has his own vision for James’ career. Michael wants him to sing pop ballads and wear ridiculous clothes and hairdos.
The only person who has James’ back is his father, Joyo (Yayu A.W. Unru) (even though James recently fired him as his manager). Cutting ties with James isn’t an option for Joyo. He already tragically lost a young son, and he refuses to watch record label sharks feed on James like fresh chum.
Now the young rapper finds himself in a power struggle with the record label and his dad. To make his rap dreams come true, James must learn when to stick to his vision and when to let go.
Jamojaya is the latest feature from writer-director Justin Chon. This overwrought story about a rapper on the come-up alternates between heavy-handed and light on its feet. Jamojaya’s underbaked story leans on too many music industry cliches – most of the characters come off as generic archetypes.
Jamojaya isn’t a nuanced character study, but Chon taps into something meaningful in broad strokes. There’s a raw and soulful authenticity at the core of all the melodrama. I was invested in James and Joyo’s relationship, even as the plot sputtered.
Jamojaya is screening as part of Sundance’s Premieres section.
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