Running Time: 93 min

Catherine Gund
Daresha Kyi




Film Website

Audience Award: Best Documentary
Frameline San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival

Audience Award: Outstanding Documentary
L.A. Outfest

Audience Award
Barcelona LGBT Film Festival

The tortured and tequila-cured voice of Chavela Vargas is as unique as the story of her life. Born Isabel Vargas Lizano in Costa Rica in 1919, Chavela was an awkward child whose boyish presentation brought shame to her strict and religious parents. While the Golden Age of Mexican cinema would draw Vargas to her adopted homeland, her rise to fame was anything but smooth, for in the masculine world of Mexican ranchera music there is little room for women. Especially a hard-drinking rebellious lesbian in pants in the 1950’s. “She had to be stronger, more macho and more drunk than all the other singing cowboys,” comments one admirer in the film.

But it is precisely this eschewal of tradition and stereotype that made Chavela Vargas both a queer icon and one of Mexico’s most revered musicians. Through directors Gund and Kyi’s wealth of archival footage, CHAVELA contrasts the singer’s brazen public persona as a woman unwilling — and unable — to hide her sexuality, with her life offstage in the throes of heartbreak and alcoholism.

In CHAVELA, Gund and Kyi present a well-rounded and sincere documentary that celebrates the exceptional life of Chavela Vargas who lived and loved with a passion as strong as her voice.
— Julia Youngs

Community Partner AMP / Instituto Cervantes