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An arresting portrait of Mexican music icon Chavela Vargas, the rabble-rousing, cigar-smoking lesbian iconoclast famous for bringing audiences to tears, who staged an amazing comeback at age 72 thanks in part to the efforts of filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar. Born into Costa Rica's middle class in 1917, Isabel Vargas Lizano seemed destined to live a life defined by heartbreak.

Ostracized by family and church for not conforming to gender norms, the preternaturally gifted singer relocated to Golden Age-era Mexico City, transforming herself into Chavela and finding her voice as an androgynous, soul-baring, ranchera-singing sensation. Teaming with legendary composer Jose Alfredo Jimenez, Chavela would come to enjoy a long career as a heart-worn and impassioned voice on the sorrows of love before succumbing to an unscrupulous record industry and her own longstanding battle with alcoholism. Out of style, out of money, and with few options left, she retreated to rural Mexico, eking out a modest living before an unexpected offer brought her back to the stage and into the hearts of the lovelorn the world over. More than 25 years in the making, directors Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi's Chavela brilliantly captures the emotional intensity of the legendary singer's life and loves. From the iconoclast who challenged a misogynistic culture by being the most macha of all the machos to the emotionally fragile cantadora whose searing tales of the tragic end of love made her a household name, Chavela is an extraordinary portrait of an unforgettable woman

The film takes an unusual observational approach in that the camera is often right up against people’s bodies and faces during impassioned discussions, arguments, or testimony.

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2017 | Frameline San Francisco LGBTQ Film Festival, Best Documentary

2017 | L.A. Outfest, Outstanding Documentary Feature  



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