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Mexico, Spain, United States · 2017
1h 33m
Director Daresha Kyi
Starring Chavela Vargas, Pedro Almodóvar, Miguel Bosé, Martirio
Genre Documentary

A journey through the life of game-changing singer Chavela Vargas, best known for her rendition of Mexican rancheras. Centered around never-before-seen interview footage shot 20 years before her death in 2012, and guided by the stories in her songs, the film weaves together a portrait of a woman who refused to conform.

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What are critics saying?


The New York Times by Ben Kenigsberg

Those looking to learn the basic outlines of the life of the singer Chavela Vargas could do worse than watch Chavela, but this plodding documentary from Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi rarely transcends simple biography


The Globe and Mail (Toronto) by Brad Wheeler

The story is simply told: the rise, fall and comeback of a lesbian trailblazer and soul-crushed singer. Chavela the person is more fascinating than Chavela the film – a tequila-sunrise love letter to an unknown icon.


TheWrap by Claudia Puig

The captivating documentary Chavela, directed by Catherine Gund (“Born to Fly”) and Daresha Kyi, mesmerizes with its impressionistic blend of archival photos, musical performances, concert footage and candid interviews with the legendary singer herself, as well with her ardent friends like Pedro Almodóvar and former lovers.


Austin Chronicle by Marjorie Baumgarten

A well-chosen collection of friends and former lovers provides reminiscences that flesh out Chavela’s challenging personality. However, the documentary provides scant information about the challenges Chavela faced in her career.


Chicago Tribune by Michael Phillips

More than a female singing cowboy, Vargas was ranchera incarnate, whether singing the material of drinking companion Jose Alfredo Jimenez or her own cathartic cries from the heart. The film is a fond but clear-eyed tribute.


Slant Magazine by Wes Greene

The film's hopscotching-in-time structure, informed by specific remembrances of Chavela Vargas's life, is refreshingly unconventional.

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