World premiere in 24 Beats Per Minute Section


Sat Mar 12, 2022 7:45pm Alamo Lamar C

Wed Mar 16, 2022 8:15pm Alamo Lamar B

Using previously unseen archival footage, newly-discovered original recordings, and unique personal testimonies, CESÁRIA ÉVORA offers a fresh take on one of the most remarkable singers of the 20th century.  As an African woman born into poverty and colonial rule, she leveraged her international fame as the Barefoot Diva to empower her community on the island of São Vicente, which is part of the Cabo Verde archipelago. CESÁRIA ÉVORA will have its world premiere as part of SXSW’s 24 Beats Per Second section.

Grammy-winner Cesária Évora rose to international fame in the mid-’90s with her melancholic morna ballads thanks to the tireless work of her manager José da Silva, who took her from a Lisbon club to world stages like the Hollywood Bowl. Never before-seen footage unearthed by filmmaker Ana Sofia Fonseca shows the full picture behind the world music star. 

“I’ve been carrying a question with me for a long time,” says Fonseca. “How did a woman over the age of 50 manage to conquer the world in the youth-obsessed music industry? Furthermore, she managed to keep being the same person. Cesária’s story is extremely inspiring. I made it my mission to tell that story.”

Driven by her journalist background, Fonseca found priceless archival material from which Évora emerges as a de facto community leader, who fed and sheltered those in need on the impoverished islands that drove many of its people to emigrate looking for a better life. 

Not only was she more than up to the task of challenging Cuban star singer Compay Segundo in the studio (as delightfully shown in the film), or working with Caetano Veloso, Bonnie Raitt, and Salif Keyta, she was a female African powerhouse. 

Throughout the years and long after her widely-mourned death in 2011 she became a role model for a new generation of women on Cape Verde, including her granddaughter Janete: “My grandmother broke down all the barriers imposed on the women of her time. Her freedom was a true act of rebellion. Without knowing the expression “female empowerment” and without this fight being on the agenda, she always defended women’s rights through her way of life. Even today in Cabo Verde, she is a reference on this issue.”