By Roque Planas
Actress Francisca Gavilán grew up listening to the music of folksinger Violeta Parra in her home, quietly. Parra’s music wasn’t exactly forbidden during Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship, but the authorities frowned upon it.
“We sang it silently,” Gavilán says.
Now, as the star of the biopic “Violeta Went to Heaven,” Gavilán sings Parra’s music professionally. The film opened Friday in New York, bringing the story of one of Latin America’s most famous musicians and iconic figures to the big screen in the United States. The movie will also play in Chicago, Los Angeles, and other U.S. cities.
One of the early exponents of Latin America’s “nueva canción,” or “new song” movement, a style of folk music that flourished in the 1950s and 1960s and continues today, Parra dedicated her life to both songwriting and documenting Chile’s traditional music. Parra penned some of the genre’s classics, including “Volver a los 17,” “Me gustan los estudiantes,” and “Gracias a la vida.”
Like many other nueva canción musicians, Parra identified with the political left and became an icon of protest against injustice across the region after her death in 1967.