A Captivating Portrait of Legendary Performer Chavela Vargas



“A wonderful tribute!” –David Lewis, San Francisco Chronicle 
“Dazzling. Poignant. Thoroughly enthralling.”–Claudia Puig, The Wrap 

CHAVELA  presents an evocative look at the unconventional life of beloved singer Chavela Vargas, whose impassioned renditions of Mexican popular music and triumphant return to the stage late in life brought her international fame. Directed and produced by Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi, CHAVELA is filled with vintage clips, stills, and performances, alongside interviews with Chavela and her contemporaries, colleagues and partners. Together, they present an evocative portrait of one of the Latin world’s most charismatic and trailblazing artists. 


Born in Costa Rica in 1919, Chavela Vargas ran away to Mexico City as a teenager to sing in the streets. By the 1950s, she gained a name for herself in Mexico, and later worldwide, chiefly for her unique and passionate interpretation of “rancheras,” traditional Mexican songs that speak frequently about love. Just as influential were her cultural contributions—Chavela was a bold and rebellious sexual pioneer who was known for having many female lovers at a time when being outwardly gay in Mexico was dangerous.  

CHAVELA centers around a 1991 interview–the singer’s first public appearance after 15 hard years lost to alcoholism and heartbreak. In the final years of her life, Chavela openly comes out as a lesbian and rises into her momentous third act, becoming a muse to filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar earning a Lifetime Achievement Grammy, and selling out performances at prestigious concert halls around the world before her death in 2012 at the age of 93. 


“For me, Chavela’s life is not a cautionary tale, but rather, a rich subterranean dimension of our own living. She is not a role model, but a muse,” offers co-director Catherine Gund on her film’s colorful, one-of-a-kind subject. “Not only an elder, but a frame for our contemporary desires.”  


Music Box Films Home Entertainment will present the nationwide debut of CHAVELA beginning January 2, 2018.