Hot Docs 2017: La Chana Review

Singular Sensation(s)

Lucija Stojevic’s La Chana is hard to describe in words, for its true power is expressed through the art of the flamenco and one woman’s passion for it. The audience was moved to tears tonight, and I felt a wide range of emotions due to the film’s final performance–which perfectly expresses the challenges and obstacles “La Chana” (Antonia Santiago Amador) has overcome in her life.

Now 70 years old, La Chana is experiencing the vicissitudes of old age in good humour. She finds her match in her husband, Felix, a fishmonger, who supports her in what she wants to do, as long as she does it with her well-being in mind. Her previous husband was not as understanding or sympathetic: that man, unnamed, was the reason she gave up flamenco at the peak of her career (after being discovered by Peter Sellers) and also the reason she suffered two broken ribs.

In the photographs shown of La Chana and her ex-husband, it’s evident that he was a possessive control freak, and that La Chana had to overcome a great deal of trauma to love and live life again. When she travelled, performing all over the world, she was able to count on inspiration and guidance to come from within, and she would improvise her movements, while staying in tempo. Her daughter noted that the woman dancing was in the guise of her mother, yet was not her mother, and that she was afraid something bad would happen to her mother in this ‘possessed’ state.


Filmgoers can see this possessed state–La Chana turns within herself and her soul shines, and, as my intervenor said, her soul is larger than life, and larger than even this movie can contain. The feet drumming on the floor, the exquisite gowns, the wild, frenzied yet beautiful movements–it’s all there and seen in a variety of archival footage that was recorded over the years. Last but not least, there’s a performance that takes place at the end of the film, which needs to be seen rather than have useless words attributed to it.

As we have seen at this Festival, passions can truly set you free. 


Wed, May 3, 11:00 AM TIFF Bell Lightbox 2


Thu, May 4, 9:30 PM TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

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