Cultural Journey Spotlight: Catherine Gund, Daresha Kyi, Directors, Producers

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Join Heartland Film in celebrating the culture, cinema, and cuisine of Mexico at the second annual Cultural Journey. Come experience Mexican culture during this unforgettable four-day event featuring movie screenings, authentic cuisine, live entertainment, and more!

Until then, learn more about some of the films screening at Cultural Journey: Mexico from the filmmakers themselves.

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Pictured: Left, Catherine Gund, Right, Daresha Kyi

Chavela
“Chavela” is the captivating portrait of beloved singer Chavela Vargas, whose passionate renditions of popular Ranchera songs made her a beloved figure in Mexico, even as her androgynous appearance and unconventional life challenged norms of the day. After disappearing from the public eye for decades, Chavela makes a triumphant return to the stage, earning her a new level of international fame late in life.

Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi directed and produced “Chavela.” Daresha is an award-winning filmmaker and television producer. Catherine is an Emmy-nominated producer, writer, and director.

The inspiration for this documentary first began in 1992 when Catherine first met Chavela while in Mexico.

“My best friend had just died,” Catherine said. “I went to Mexico and it was supposed to be for a couple weeks but I ended up staying for four months. I got there, I was so wrecked and my friends took me to see Chavela. They knew who Chavela was and they were so excited. Nobody knew she had kind of just disappeared into an alcoholic spiral. People really did think she was dead but she was just starting to sing again at this little bar. My friends said, “You have to come hear her.” I went and heard her music, which as you’ve heard can so mend any pain and then tear it open again. So she was really kind of giving me a way out through her music– a really direct sense of how to grieve how to survive.”

After the concert, Catherine’s friends encouraged her to interview Chavela.

“We don’t have lesbian role models in Mexico,” Catherine said. “We didn’t have them anywhere. Really, that you could touch. And there she was.”

Daresha met Catherine shortly after her return from Mexico when the two were both working on a project for ITVS called “Positive Life with H.I.V.” The two stayed in touch and in 2014, Catherine showed Daresha her footage of Chavela while brainstorming ideas for her next film.

“We watched 15-20 minutes of Chavela talking to a group of young lesbians,” Daresha said. “And that was it for me. I didn’t even hear her sing. I just heard her talking and the things she said– more specifically, the way she said them were so moving to me and I thought “I want to know this woman. I want other people to know this woman.””

One of the biggest takeaways from “Chavela,” is that it’s never too late to follow your dreams and be who you are meant to be. Daresha was struck with how this film resonates with so many people.

“I’ve come to realize, everybody feels like an underdog sometimes,” Daresha said. “Everybody feels like an outcast. And Chavela, being the ultimate outcast– she was a woman, she was a lesbian, she was a person of color, she was an alcoholic, she was an artist. All these things are considered strikes against you. She was the ultimate outcast, underdog, outsider and everybody finds some point of connection to her because of all these different points of pain and suffering. And so her ability to do it through her song and in her presence by telling her story. They just identify with her. They find a way to identify with her.”

Mexican Market & Film Experience: Chavela
Friday, April 20, 2018 6:00 PM – Tickets $50

Take a journey of the historic, cultural, geographic and food infused perspective of the diversity of Mexico through a unique Mexican Mercado! Enjoy authentic food, music, products and costumes that represent the different eras of Mexico.

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