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Chavela is the captivating look at the unconventional life of beloved performer Chavela Vargas, whose passionate renditions of Mexican popular music and triumphant return to the stage late in life brought her international fame. 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 became a household name in her adopted country, delivering her performances with a raw passion and unique voice. Just as influential were her cultural contributions; Chavela was a bold, rebellious, sexual pioneer who was known for having many female lovers at a time when being out 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.

Reactions, Awards & Festivals

“A wonderful tribute to a queer icon.”

David Lewis

San Francisco Chronicle

“Dazzling. Poignant. Thoroughly enthralling.”

Claudia Puig

The Wrap

"Donald Trump’s ultimate nightmare – a Mexican lesbian diva who can wring your very soul."

Jonathan Romney

The Guardian

“A trailblazing free spirit whose appetite for tequila and women was as legendary as her soul-stirring vocals...”

David Rooney

The Hollywood Reporter

“Legendary Mexican singer Chavela Vargas receives justifiably laudatory treatment in this documentary celebrating her refusal to compromise together with her musical brilliance.”

Jay Weissberg


Official Selection - 2017 Berlin International Film Festival

Official Selection - 2017 HotDocs

Winner, Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary Feature, 2017 Outfest Los Angeles

Winner, AT&T Audience Award for Best Documentary and Honorable Mention Jury Award - 2017 Frameline41 San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival

Cast & Crew
  • Himself : Chavela Vargas
  • Himself : Pedro Almodóvar
  • Herself : Elena Benarroch
  • Himself : Miguel Bosé
  • Herself : Alicia Elena Pérez Duarte y Noroña
  • Herself : Liliana Felipe
  • Herself : Patria Jiménez Flores
  • Herself : Laura García-Lorca
  • Herself : Martirio Gira
  • Herself : Mariana Gyalui
  • Himself : JoséAlfredo Jiménez Jr.
  • Herself : Eugenia León
  • Herself : Tania Libertad
  • Herself : Diana Ortega
  • Herself : Tlany Ortega
  • Herself : Jesusa Rodríguez
  • Herself : Marcela Rodríguez
  • Herself : Betty-Carol Sellen
  • Produced & Directed by : Catherine Gund & Daresha Kyi
  • Executive Producers : Lynda Weinman & Bruce Heavin
  • Co-Producers : Pepita Serrano & Agnes Gund
  • Cinematography : Catherine Gund (Mexico), Natalia Cuevas (Mexico), Paula Gutierrez (Spain)
  • Editor : Carla Gutierrez 
  • Composer : Gil Talmi
Technical Info
  • Production Year : 2017
  • Release Date : 10/04/17
  • Countries of Production : USA, Spain, Mexico
  • Languages : English, Spanish
  • Running Time : 93 Minutes
  • Screen Ratio : 1.77:1
  • Sound :
  • Color : Color, B&W
  • Rating : Not Rated
DVD/Blu-Ray Special Features
  • Feature Commentary with directors Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi
  • Filmmaker Q&A from the New York Premiere
  • Interview with the filmmakers
  • Rare 1991 Interview with Chavela
  • Live Chavela Concert Performance