Directed by Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi
A masterful examination of the life of Chavela Vargas, the legendary Costa Rican lesbian singer, who was one of the foremost practitioners of Rancheras—a hybrid of traditional Mexican songs focusing on love, patriotism, and nature. The film draws on never before seen interviews and enthralling performance footage of Chavela, as well as those of her contemporaries, lovers, and friends (including Pedro Almodóvar). Against the odds, this openly queer activist rose from the depths of obscurity to become a national treasure in a deeply patriarchal culture, defying traditional gender roles on and off stage her entire life. Chavela’s affair with artist Frida Kahlo, her struggles with alcoholism and violence, and a late-in-life comeback are explored in this heartfelt, intimate biography. Interspersed throughout are selections of Chavela in performance—singing the soul-drenched Rancheras in her signature, emotionally tortured style. What emerges is an unforgettable portrait of a woman at the top in a male dominated field who excelled at performing Mexico’s most traditional music while living a most untraditional, and unapologetic queer life—and being hailed for doing so.