Argentine singer Mercedes Sosa was a key figure in the socially committed musical movement known as nueva canción. This folk-inspired genre helped spur upheavals against the dictatorships in Portugal, Spain and Latin America during the 1970s and ’80s, and Sosa’s place in that sphere of protest is more than worthy of exploration. Rodrigo H. Vila’s documentary is sadly little more than a pie-eyed, poorly made paean to this living legend.
The film is structured as a globe-hopping journey by Sosa’s son, Fabián, during which he interviews relatives and colleagues of his mother, almost all of whom speak in awestruck terms of her talent and dogged persistence in the face of death threats and necessary exile. To many she was a saint, but there’s only so much adoration one can take before longing for a more down-to-earth perspective. Not surprisingly, the doc comes most alive whenever Sosa herself is featured, via archival footage and what appears to be a final sit-down with Vila before her death in 2009. (The lack of context for this conversation is a real frustration.) Despite her approachable demeanor, there’s clearly an edge underlying her every word, as if a lifetime of being a beacon of hope has weighed more heavily on her soul than she can express. It’s a tension you wish this hagiographic portrait had more fully tapped into.
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