In La Chana, director Lucija Stojevic investigates the life of flamenco legend Antonia Santiago Amador (better known as La Chana), who mysteriously disappeared from the spotlight at the height of her career.
For years, La Chana suffered emotional abuse at the hands of her domineering ex-husband, effectively forcing her into early retirement. Now in her late sixties, she is more determined and empowered than ever and embarks on one last show.
We asked Stojevic about the film.
SDTC: How did you first learn about La Chana?
LS: I first heard about La Chana from Beatriz del Pozo, a flamenco teacher and musicologist, when I was doing a reportage about flamenco in Catalonia for The Guardian.
Beatriz showed me the scene of La Chana dancing in the film The Bobo (co-starring Peter Sellers) and I was floored. The speed of her footwork and intensity of her emotion was overwhelming! I couldn’t help but wonder about what was behind that intense pain, which is so mesmerizing in La Chana’s dance.
What made her determined to perform again?
To be honest, that was a big surprise for us during the making of the film. When I first met La Chana, she was on the verge of being forgotten. I think through the process of making the film and bringing all of her career highlights back to the surface, through talking about the past so much, she got the desire to go back on stage.
The surprise wasn’t that La Chana was dancing again, because she is always dancing – even when she’s eating dinner or watching TV her feet are moving. It was that she wanted to go on stage again to dance in public. I guess she felt like a final bow to her beloved audience was in order. She still had something she wanted to give. And the only way that was possible in her physical state was with her super-human determination.
What do you want audiences to take away from this film?
I want them to feel like they discovered an incredible artist and feel inspired by the personal strength of this extraordinary woman. I want them to feel that spark in the pit of their stomach – the spark that makes us feel as though we’re all capable of so much, just like La Chana’s soul was capable of overcoming the obstacles of her ailing body.
What did you learn about La Chana that surprised/impressed/confused you?
Oh my – La Chana is a bundle of contradictions. She can be the biggest diva, yet she is the most humble person. One moment she’s worried about the angle you’re filming her at and the then next she’s letting you film her in her Hello Kitty pajamas. She’s incredibly strong and she’s frail. She’s raw and she’s complex. But that’s what makes her such a wonderful protagonist.
La Chana screens May 1, 3 & 4. Buy tickets here.