Chilean musician and visual artist Violeta Parra on film


This video is called VIOLETA WENT TO HEAVEN – Trailer with English subtitles.

On 11 August 2012, I saw the film “Violeta Went to Heaven.” An interview with Andres Wood, director of that film, is here.

The film is about many-sided Chilean artist Violeta Parra (1917-1967).

She was a singer, a songwriter, a guitarist, a collector of old folk songs, a painter, a sculptor, a ceramist and a textile artist.

She was the inspiration for the influential folk music movement Nueva canción. Outside Chile, she inspired many folk singers, from Mercedes Sosa in Argentina to Joan Baez and Bob Dylan in the USA.

Variety magazine in the USA writes about her:

Raised in poverty in southern Chile as the daughter of an alcoholic schoolteacher named Nicanor … Parra was a spirited child right from the start. As an adult, she was deeply romantic and deeply political, writing songs that could be achingly lyrical or stridently defend the oppressed.

Her father died early. “The only thing which I inherited from him was an old guitar”, Violeta Parra says in the film.

Chile, like other Latin American countries, has a history of Spanish conquistadores violently subjecting American Indian people, stealing their land and imposing Roman Catholic religion on them.

Throughout her life, as the film shows, Violeta Parra would have conflicts with the Catholic church, and with the Chilean elite, mainly descendants of Spanish conquistadores.

There were at least four reasons why the Chilean elite might dislike her. She was of American Indian ancestry. She was from a poor family. She was a Leftist critic of inequality.

The fourth reason was the elite’s views on arts. Like in Cuba, or in Canada, the elite tended to think that inspiration for good art should come from Europe, later from the USA (not from Chile, Cuba, or Canada themselves).

However, Violeta Parra went with her textile art to the Louvre museum in Paris. She managed to exhibit her art there. Her exhibition got enthusiastic reviews, also from conservative newspapers like Le Figaro.

Like African-American athletes in the twentieth century, usually discriminated against, suddenly were celebrated as laudable United States Americans if they won Olympic gold medals, after her exhibition in France, suddenly the doors of the Chilean elite opened for Violeta Parra. According to the film, still with a conflict, as after playing her music, she was sent to the kitchen for a meal, while the rich audience had a luxurious dinner.

The film mentions that Violeta Parra dedicated one of her works of art to opposition against wars.

In the film, actress Francisca Gavilan, who plays Parra, also mentions her opposition to “the market, capitalism”.

Paradoxically, this film about the anti-capitalist Ms Parra begins with thanking capitalist corporation BHP Billiton, like some films about the environment begin with publicity for polluting corporations.

Near the end of the film is Violeta’s song Gavilan. Gavilan was translated in the Dutch cinema as “kiekendief”, (marsh) harrier. A United States review in Variety magazine translates gavilan as “sparrowhawk”. However, it is really the Chilean hawk.

The film does not really explain the question why a woman with a life so full of many forms of art, struggle for a better world, and love ended her life by suicide. It suggest that her unhappy love life and financial problems were a major factor. Other factors may have been her despair about the oppression of women in macho Chilean society, and oppression of poor people which seemed doomed to last forever under the Rightist governments in 1960s Chile,

Three years after Violeta’s death came the Leftist Allende government in Chile; three years earlier, and it might have given her a perspective not to commit suicide. However, on 11 September three years year later again, came the horrible coup and dictatorship of Pinochet. Violeta Parra’s children had to flee Chile, and her works of arts were hidden to protect them from the tyranny.

Police stormed three schools in the Chilean capital Santiago today to evict students staging a week-long occupation: here.

SANTIAGO, Aug 31 2012 (IPS) – It is essential for young people in Chile to assume a more active role in politics, especially in two key electoral processes: the municipal elections in October and the legislative and presidential vote in 2013, says student leader Camila Vallejo, who has not ruled out running for a seat in parliament herself: here.

Chilean police fired water cannon at indigenous protesters for the second day running on Tuesday during a visit by President Sebastian Pinera to the restive Mapuche homeland: here.

11 thoughts on “Chilean musician and visual artist Violeta Parra on film

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