Violeta Parra would have turned 100 this year, and Chile is rolling out the festivities in honor of their multi-hyphenate troubadour-turned-national treasure, giving us all a good reason to revisit the life and work of one of Latin America’s most important 20th century artists. But while “the Year of Violeta Parra” promises to bring a host of new biographical studies and critical appraisals of Parra’s work, there’s nothing like heating up some popcorn and cuddling up with a good biopic – which is precisely why we should all take a moment to watch (or re-watch) Andrés Wood’s powerful 2011 feature Violeta se fue a los cielos.
Based on a biography written by Parra’s own son, singer-songwriter Ángel Parra, Violeta se fue a los cielos traces the grand arc of Violeta’s life from her childhood in the countryside, through her artistic zenith in the museums of Paris, and finally to the tragic suicide that robbed South America of one of its most authentic poetic voices. Nevertheless, Violeta rejects the traditional, linear biographical timeline in favor of a fragmented narrative, presenting Parra’s life as a kaleidoscopic puzzle accompanied by poetic visuals and powerful reinterpretations of Parra’s compositions by actress Francisca Gavilán.
In all, the film is a fascinating reflection on the life and personality of a complex, enigmatic, and brilliant woman who showed the world the depth and beauty of Chilean folklore, and continues to inspire artists to this day. At the time of its release, Violeta se fue a los cielos picked up the World Cinema Jury Prize (Dramatic) at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and was selected as the Chilean entry to the Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category. The film is available for streaming rental or purchase on Amazon Video, YouTube, or Google Play.