Chilean film director Andrés Wood is summoning up his country's past once more in his latest project Violeta se fue a los cielos. The forthcoming major motion picture centers around the life of Violeta Parra, a legendary folk singer in Chile and throughout all of Latin America. Audiences in the United States may know her best by the song "Gracias a la Vida" that she sang and composed and that has since been covered numerous times over by many musicians including Joan Baez.
Wood, whose previous film Machuca brilliantly conveyed Chile's tumultuous history leading up to the U.S. backed right-wing military coup in 1973, promises that his latest work will not be an official history of the singer's life. Parra's biography would certainly be compelling as a narrative if that were the case. Born in 1917, she lived to become a multifaceted creative force as a painter, craftswoman, poet, singer, and composer.
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Though people commonly ascribe the founding of 20th century Latin American political folk music to Cuba's Silvio Rodríguez, Parra is more accurately placed as the godmother of the musical movement. She spent part of her life traveling Chile collecting songs, poems, and stories from its rural communities. In Santiago, Parra encouraged a young man by the name of Víctor Jara to develop his talents as the singer would go on to become a legend in his own right. Her life was fraught with intense emotions along the way, however, culminating in its suicidal end months shy of her 50th birthday.
Wood has said his cinematic interpretation is inspired by a book by the same name penned by the musician's son Ángel Parra and that to canonize her would be like killing her. With actress Francisca Gavilán portraying Violeta Parra, the film is set for an August release in Chile.
Machuca eventually made its way to Irvine's Edwards University Town Center theater back in 2005. Let's hope Wood's Violeta se fue a los cielos does as well. In the meantime, here's a behind the scenes look with an interpretation of Parra's "Arriba Quemando el Sol" - a song about Chile's miners - playing in the background.