When American filmmaker Catherine Gund met Mexican ranchera singer Chavela Vargas in 1991, both women were at major crossroads in their lives.
Gund, then a young queer activist, had just lost her best friend to AIDS. Vargas, a feisty 71-year-old who’d once been Mexico’s best-known female singer of mournful ranchera ballads, had just returned to the small stage following years of extreme alcoholism that had made her a virtual recluse.
Neither could have known that more than a quarter century later, the casual footage Gund shot of their early ‘90s interviews would form the backbone of an absorbing documentary about Vargas’ life. “Chavela” opens theatrically this week and covers both Vargas’ early career in the years leading up to their chat and the unlikely comeback and international stardom that she would go on to enjoy very late in her remarkable life.
Read the full article here.