Inspired by exclusive interview and performance footage of Chavela Vargas shot in 1991 and guided by her unique voice, Chavela weaves an arresting portrait of a woman who dared to dress, speak, sing, and dream her unique life into being.
Interview with Director/Producer Daresha Kyi
Congratulations! Your film’s been released. What’s been the response from audiences since we interviewed you at Hot Docs?
Since you interviewed Director and Producer Catherine Gund at Hot Docs, Chavela has continued to screen to very enthusiastic crowds at festivals all over the world ranging from Australia to Transylvania. We had some initial trepidation about screening the film in Mexico where Chavela has particular cultural relevance but the audiences there were grateful that these two gringas felt compelled to spread her fame. The film has also enjoyed theatrical distribution across the US as well as in Spain, Germany, and Taiwan, among other countries.
I've been deeply moved by the number of people who have come to me after a screening and Q & A session with tears flowing to tell me how profoundly touched they were by Chavela's story - men, women, straight, gay, trans people have all had cathartic experiences as they watched the film. The most wildly receptive audience was a sold-out crowd at the Castro Theater during the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival. They laughed, cried, sang and clapped after her songs as if Chavela could hear them and when Cat and I went on stage for the Q & A, they jumped to their feet and gave us a standing ovation that brought tears of joy to my eyes. "We made this for you!" I thought.
What has been the response from those you interviewed including Chavela's friends?
When we screened the film in Mexico Patria Jimenez, Marcela Rodriguez and Alicia Elena Perez Duarte participated in the Q & A with us. They all agreed that the film depicted Chavela as she really was and have supported it enthusiastically. Alicia (Nina) loves the film so much that she traveled with it doing Q & As with audiences in various Mexican states as part of the Ambulante Film Festival. She's one of the best Ambassadors we could ask for and has told us the film has inspired her to push forward with a book about Chavela that she's been contemplating writing for years! Pedro Almodovar has told us he really enjoyed the film as well.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
I can talk about the reviews we've received which have mostly been positive. One reviewer took issue with our archival material calling it inaccurate but our Archival Producer, Adrian Gutierrez, was very meticulous in his research and paid particular attention to the specific dates and locations of each image to make certain they were authentic so go figure. Another reviewer called us out for not being more creative with our use of stills and I actually agreed with them. If we hadn't decided to rush the completion of the film in order to enter the Berlin film festival that's one area where I really would have liked to be more adventurous but I don't regret the decision. Winning the second place Audience Award at the Berlinale opened more doors than I could ever have imagined. Other criticisms have focused on the fact that the film is rather traditional and straightforward which is obviously true but in the end since it's so clearly effective, I have to say that it still works.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
I've been pleasantly surprised when people who felt they really knew Chavela's story say they learned a lot about her that they didn't know previously. Honestly all the feedback we've received has only confirmed my belief that our mission to share Chavela's fierce fight for her independence with the world - that people needed to learn about her story - was dead on.
Would you like to add anything else?
It's been an honor and a privilege to share Chavela's story. I've learned so much about life, myself and my own career. She taught me that it's never too late, that the fight to live an authentic life is worth any battle scars and that you don't have to sing "pretty" to move people to tears. Although I studied directing at AFI and NYU and made a number of award winning short films, Chavela is not only my first feature length film, it's the first one I've directed in over 20 years. I made an amazing comeback later in life Just like La Señora!
Interview: December 2017
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
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