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Music Box Lands Chavela Vargas Documentary for U.S., Plans October Release

Music Box Films has bought U.S. rights to the documentary “Chavela” and plans an October theatrical release, Variety has learned exclusively.

“Chavela,” directed by Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi, follows the life of the iconic singer Chavela Vargas, who ran away from Costa Rica to Mexico City in her early teens and began singing in the streets. She became successful during the 1950s and challenged mainstream Mexican morals, by her life and her art, especially by singing searing love songs originally intended for men wooing women.

She also became a muse to  filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar. Vargas died in 2012.

“Chavela” premiered in February at the Berlin Film Festival, where it won the second place Panorama Audience Award. Jay Weissberg said in his review for Variety that the film was “a justifiably laudatory love letter to a woman whose voice drew forth a song’s every emotion, and whose life as a trouser-wearing lesbian celebrity became an inspiration throughout the Spanish-speaking world.”

Gund said, “When I interviewed Chavela in 1991, she was already 71 years old but had not yet performed on a big, international stage or met Pedro Almodóvar. She was feisty, fresh and uninhibited, inspired even, to impart lessons about life and love. I wanted to know the rest of her story but had to wait over 20 years for her to write it.”

The deal was negotiated by Music Box Films’ president William Schopf and the Film Sales Company president Andrew Herwitz on behalf of the filmmakers.

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