DMovies - Your platform for thought-provoking cinema
Director - Catherine Gund/ Daresha Kyi - 2017

"Dirty gem"
Cry with the llorona: doc follows the life of the extraordinary Chavela Vargas from cradle to grave, in an emotional journey that's ensured to grip you - live from the Berlinale


Chavela Vargas was no ordinary singer, no ordinary woman and no ordinary human being. The “llorona” (Spanish for someone who cries a lot) had no crystal-clear and sweet voice, but rather a cannon-like lament that shattered hearts and quickly moistened even the coldest and most hardened eyes. The doc Chavela, which explores the singer’s life from her birth in Costa Rica to her rise in her chosen homeland Mexico and much beloved Spain, is certain to bring tears to your eyes.

Chavela’s explosive and passionate music was deeply rooted in her fiery and assertive temperament and unflinching desire to live. She loved women as intensively as she could, and she was entirely unapologetic of the homosexuality. Her relations were profound and yet dysfunctional (she could become violent), and she counts Frida Kahlo and the wives of many important politicians amongst those whom she loved.

Her abrasive approach to sexuality made she her an icon and inspiration to lesbians in Mexico and elsewhere. She insisted in wearing masculine clothes and behaving manly at a time when homosexuality was frowned upon, and the word “lesbian” was pejorative. She was often described as a “macha”, the “feminine” of macho. She joked that she looked like a transvestite when she was dressed up in female attire. At old age she spoke frankly about her sexual experiences and how she had to avoid the l-word at young age, while still fully exercising her sexuality.

The film blends historical footage, numerous interviews with Chavela herself and statements by her surviving lovers and close friends the Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar and the singer Miguel Bosé. It reveals the most difficult moments of her life, as she struggled with alcoholism and refrained from singing for 12 years. She gave up alcohol and resumed singing at old age, performing extensively in Spain and finally at the Bellas Arts Theatre in Mexico City. She dreamt of dying on stage while singing. Instead she died peacefully in 2012 at the age of 93 in Mexico after having lived life to the fullest, without regrets.

Chavela is showing this week at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival, which DMovies is following live right now – click here for more information the event. It’s remarkable that the doc chose to premiere at the birthplace of another one of the most groundbreaking and subversive lesbian artists of all times: Marlene Dietrich.

The two female filmmakers were present at the screening and introduced the film as a statement against the ugliness and the division that Donald Trump is attempting to perpetrate against Chavela’s country.

"Dirty gem"

By Victor Fraga - 10-02-2017

By Victor Fraga - 10-02-2017

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based writer with more than 15 years of involvement ...

DMovies Poll

Do/would you go to the cinema in order to watch documentaries?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Most Read

François Ozon probably doesn’t get much sleep. At [Read More...]
Pigs might fly. And so Brexit might happen. [Read More...]
Time flies by! DMovies was launched in February [Read More...]
American novelist Dennis Cooper’s cinematic debut feels like [Read More...]
It’s 2018, and neoliberalism is steadily morphing into [Read More...]
On the occasion of the UK release of [Read More...]

Read More

On Body and Soul (Testről és lélekről)

Ildikó Enyedi

Jeremy Clarke - 19-09-2017

See you in my dreams! Golden Bear winner is an oneiric romance set against the unlikely backdrop of an abattoir - out in cinemas this week [Read More...]

Five dirty picks from the Raindance Film Festival


Victor Fraga - 18-09-2017

Check out top five recommendations for the Raindance Film Festival, one of the largest showcases for independent cinema in the world, starting this week in London [Read More...]

The Road Movie

Dmitrii Kalashnikov

Victor Fraga - 14-09-2017

This jaw-dropping documentary entirely filmed from dashcams on Russian cars provides a shocking, bleak and despondent portrait of the largest country in the world - at Hot Docs London [Read More...]

Facebook Comment

Website Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *