Drunken nights and romantic disappointments wouldn’t have been the same for many generations of Latin American music lovers had they not been scored by the sorrowful voice of legendary Ecuadorian singer Julio Jaramillo aka “El Ruiseñor de América” (The Nightingale of the Americas).

Beloved across the Spanish-speaking world for his boleros and pasillos about heartbreak and eternal devotion, Jaramillo became an international icon in the late 1950s, with a reputation for being a bohemian womanizer. Seeking to demystify that perception and to call attention to his lesser-known pieces, Ecuadorian documentarian Rodolfo Muñoz traveled across his own country, as well as Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, to meet those who knew the singer beyond the scandalous headlines and the perils of fame.

In the feature doc Si yo muero primero, a title taken from the lyrics of the artist’s biggest hit and perennial classic Nuestro Juramento, Muñoz interviews friends, colleagues, and others who were marked by Jaramillo’s talent in enduring ways.

The candid official trailer for this long-overdue look into the life of an idol touches on the immense adoration Colombians have for him, so much so that many of them wish he’d been born there instead of in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Another clip focuses on a Venezuelan fan that each year on the anniversary of Jaramillo’s death (February 9, 1978) pays to have a mass celebrated in his honor. In Mexico, according to first-hand accounts, his success was such that at the height of his career nine out of the top 10 songs on the charts were by him.

Comprised of archival footage, including television appearances, photographs, and simple talking-head conversations with its subjects, Si yo muero primero appears to be an effectively produced and heartfelt tribute to J.J. (Jota Jota, another of Jaramillo’s monikers).

Si yo muero primero played in Ecuadorian cinemas for several months in the Fall of 2017 to great reception. Internationally, it screened widely at special events in Latin America, as well as the Chicago Latino Film Festival and New York’s Ecuadorian Film Festival. 

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