Mercedes Sosa: The Voice of Latin America

By Doyle, Alicia | Notes, March 2015 | Go to article overview

Mercedes Sosa: The Voice of Latin America


Doyle, Alicia, Notes


Mercedes Sosa: The Voice of Latin America. DVD. Directed by Rodrigo H. Vila. [New York]: First Run Features, 2013. FRF915915D. $24.95.

Argentine musician Mercedes Sosa, often referred to as the "singer of the people," was known for her extraordinary voice and performances of songs that contained a pronounced political subtext. In this film, Sosa's early life in poverty, her personal romantic life, her struggle with domestic abuse, alcoholism, depression, and her constant battle with shyness are all acknowledged. The director of the film, Rodrigo Vila, has created an emotional homage to Mercedes Sosa by presenting a series of interviews with her friends, family, and music colleagues that he alternates with recordings of her own words and voice. The film is useful to those looking for a more personal understanding of the life of a Latin American musician and how the politics of race, class, and gender affected both musical creation and performance.

While Vila does not attempt to discuss many of Argentina's political issues in this film, he does address Sosa's personal investment in her native country and her continued courage in the face of censorship and oppression. Unfortunately the root causes of this censorship are not explicitly investigated in this film. In fact, the political power of music, in particular the texts of the songs from the Nueva Cancion (New Song) tradition to which Mercedes Sosa belongs, is regrettably left under-examined.

In too restrained a manner and without mention of contemporary singers like Victor Jara, Vila does indicate that songs with a political message often resulted in many musicians suffering great personal losses, imprisonment, and exile, and that Sosa herself was no stranger to the high price paid for speaking her truth. In her lifetime Sosa received death threats, was arrested on stage, imprisoned, and despite her clearly stated desire to remain in Argentina, was forced into exile to France. …

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