Director: Ana Sofia Fonseca | Script: Ana Sofia Fonseca | Cast: Cesária Évora, José da Silva, and | Time to play: 94 minutes | Year: 2022
The world of music is a tough industry. There is a lot of competition and the workload is very high. Several musicians, including Hardwell, Taylor Swift, and Avicii, have spoken about the immense pressure that comes with recording and performing music. That fact alone makes the popularity and success of Cape Verdean singer Cesária so special.
His breakthrough came in the 1990s, when he was already in his fifties. In addition to her relatively advanced age, she also doesn’t have the appearance and lifestyle of a typical singer. In the documentary, her manager and personal friend of hers, José da Silva, says that she was rejected several times by record companies only after seeing photos of Cesária. Her voice was beautiful, but she wasn’t “promotable” enough.
Despite that, Cesária has become one of the most unique singers in the world. Cesária’s special story certainly deserves attention, and the documentary cesaria evora does his honor. With the help of old and new audio recordings, Cesária’s story comes to life in a fantastic way. Not only her singing, but also her powerful and idiosyncratic character stand out. One of her highlights is when José da Silva talks about one of her first performances in Paris, where Cesária makes all kinds of absurd demands for the performance, which are met.
The fact that the film wants to keep the memory of the Cape Verdean icon alive does not mean that it avoids the less positive sides of Cesária. Her short temper, her depression and her stubbornness are adequately addressed. Instead of mentioning him briefly, the documentary presents him as an inseparable part of Cesária. This not only makes her more human and authentic, but also sheds a new light on who she was.
The documentary focuses in part on the history of Cape Verde and makes clever use of archival footage. It’s definitely not filler, but it does provide some relevant context about how Cesária grew up. Good parallels are drawn between the rise of Cesária and the decolonization of the former Portuguese colony. This look at history makes the singer’s story more complete and personal.
The documentary is also accessible to those who do not know Cesária Évora. In that sense, this is a pretty accessible documentary, but fans of Cesária are in for a fantastic experience, too. It is not often that such an honest and at the same time respectful image of an (inter)national icon is presented. It is very special that this documentary provides new insights into the Cape Verdean singer, but it can also serve as an introduction for people who are not familiar with her music.