The film, Violeta went to Heaven is about the life and times of Chile’s prominent singer and folklorist Violeta Parra. Using the script by Eliseo Altunaga, the film is directed by Chilean born director Andres Wood who is known for famed works like Machuca and Football Diaries. Andres Wood has made this film as a kind of biopic on Parra. Although certain creative liberties are taken, the film is closely based on the life events of Parra, particularly structured around an interview given by her to a TV channel in 1962. After going through a tumultuous childhood, Parra found solace in her musical avenues, which then diversified into other art forms as well. Although, Woods have shown this life path of hers in an out of sequence manner, he has arranged in such a way there is apt coherency. Having already won the Sundance World Cinema Dramatic Jury Prize, this film was screened at the Houston Cinema Arts Festival. This festival features films which are by and about artists in the fields of visual, literary as well as performing arts.
The gender perspectives in Violeta went to Heaven evolved as Parra life went on. That is, although, Parra faced a restrictive as well as discriminative childhood and adult life, her achievements in the later part of her life earned her more recognition. This is unlike the women characters featured in the work, Sea of Poppies, where almost all female characters had to suffer sexual abuse or enslavement. “…in spectacles that are injurious to the dignity of the fairer sex.” (Ghosh 118). As mentioned above, Parra had a tough childhood because of her alcoholic father, and then in her growing up years had conflicts with the Chilean elite, who were mainly descendants of the Spanish conquistadores. These Chilean elite were imbibed with male chauvinistic thoughts, and so they disliked and opposed any woman who is expressing her voice through art works. With Parra being a Leftist critic regarding issues of inequality, she faced more opposition. However, after the acclaim she got for her textile art at the Louvre museum in Paris, she was started to be recognized and feted by all the sections in Chile including the elite.
When it comes to identity aspects, Parra had a difficulty in finding her “place” in the Chilean society. Like the unnamed narrator in the work, Season of Migration to the North, who had difficulty in finding his identity in his homeland after a stint in foreign shores, Parra faced number of issues in Chile, starting with her ancestry. “I felt as though a piece of ice were melting inside of me, as though I were some frozen substance on which the sun had shone.” (Salih and Johnson-Davies 3). She belonged to the American Indian ancestry, and so had conflicts from the initial period with the Catholic Church, as she could not shed away her lineage and fall in line with what majority expected of her. This identity crisis of her also got exhibited in other facets of her life. Parra was woman endowed with wide range of interests, abilities and importantly passions for many artistic mediums. Due to this aspect, she was a musician-singer, painter, folklorist, etc, apart from playing the role of mother to her children. In Chilean society, people are categorized simply as housewives, teachers, doctors, engineers, etc. on the basis of their profession. With Parra involving herself in various vocations, people had difficultly in slotting her and also she had difficulty in finding her identity.
Arjun Appadurai in his work, Modernity at Large, had this to say about globalization and how the resultant modernity has created persons who wanted to become modern, physically as well as mentally, although this “self-fulfilling and self-justifying idea is provoking many criticisms and much resistance in both theory and every day life.” (Appadurai 1). This aspect of resistance is shown in the film, with Parra opposing modernism when it had negative impacts on the indigenous cultures. Among the many political activisms carried out by Violeta Parra, her struggle to protect the indigenous cultures forms a key part. With modernity, perpetuated by early aspects of globalization, causing sizable changes in Chilean communities, Parra resisted it and wanted to do something in that direction. “Modernism embodies a peculiar condition of being modern, which may not have true meaning without being related to an earlier alien culture” (Said 132). She traveled throughout Chile as well as other Latin American countries, and gave musical performances to instill in the people the need to protect their cultures, without giving into modernism.
The key irony that is visible in the film, which is applicable to many environments including my environment of Houston, is the aspect of how capitalism and commercial interests has ingrained into every aspect of human life. That is, the film begins paradoxically with a title card acknowledging a capitalist corporation BHP Billiton, although the film is about an anti-capitalist iconic figure Violeta Parra. This is line with the protagonist of the work, The Death of Artemio Cruz, who despite being a revolutionary soldier in the Mexican Revolution gives in to capitalism and indulges in dubious land reforms and exploitation of workers to become rich and powerful. (Fuentes and MacAdam). Thus, it is clear that capitalism has become an important and intricate part of life. Although, capitalism may not show its most virulent side in environments like Houston, it would show in a subtle manner.
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