The film was selected as the Chilean entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 84th Academy Awards, but it did not make the final shortlist. It was awarded the World Cinema Jury Prize (Dramatic) at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
The film was released on 11 August in Chile in 17 cinemas. About 6,000 people saw the film on the day of its release. There were not very many copies, so the film was not shown in major cities such as Chillán. After its box office success and an outcry by the press, it was shown more widely. It was released on 27 October in Argentina. The film was seen 391,465 times in 2011, making it the most watched Chilean film of 2011. The following year it was released at the Sundance Film Festival in the United States and later premiered in New York City at the Latinbeat film series held by The Film Society of Lincoln Center. Later in 2012, it was released in Brazil, the Netherlands, France, Peru Germany, Sweden, and Belgium. It appeared at a variety of festivals including Paris Cinéma, Biarritz International Festival of Latin American Cinema, Hamburg Film Festival, and the Stockholm International Film Festival.
The film depicts Violeta del Carmen Parra Sandoval’s road to becoming considered one of Chile’s greatest folklorists and artists. It chronicles her guitar playing at a very young age, the ambience of her musician father’s haunts, and the rural settings of southern Chile in the Ñuble Province.
The film follows Parra in her project of studying Chilean folk music in order to preserve and carry forward in an original way traditional composition styles to form the genre now known as Nueva Canción Chilena (English: New Chilean music). It shows her seeking out old musicians and asking them to sing or strum the songs they knew.
It covers her invitations abroad to Warsaw, Poland and Paris, France. During this trip Parra also travelled through the Soviet Union and parts of Europe. The movie also portrays the events in Chile leading up to the tragic death of her baby daughter Rosita during her absence.
The film covers her tumultuous relationship with Swiss flautist, Gilbert Favre whom she met when he accompanied an anthropologist specializing in Chilean folklore to Chile.
It follows the diversification of her artistic output, including her oil painting, and mixed media tapestry called arpilleras or Hessian (cloth).
The film follows Parra and Favre's stay in Geneva and Paris, portraying her visit to Musée du Louvre, which resulted in the honor of being the first Latin American woman to have a solo exhibition there.
Upon their return to South American, Favre and Parra broke up, provoked by his desire to live in Bolivia where he was part of a successful Bolivian music act, Los Jairas. Parra’s energy was invested in reviving a unique version of a Peña, a community center for the arts and political activism. Parra’s Peña was a tent (somewhat similar looking to a circus tent) that she set up on a 30 x 30 meter piece of land in the Parque La Quintrala, in today’s La Reina municipality of Santiago, in the area once known as la Cañada. Her tent hosted musical spectacles and she and her children also lived on the same land. The movie chronicles her dealings with the mayor of the area at the time, Fernando Castillo Velasco, who helped her establish the site. Favre returns with his group, but declines to stay, although a once proud Parra humbly begs him to, because in the meantime he had established a life and married in Bolivia.
The film depicts the alternating atmosphere of the tent, at times, lively with artists during the day, and music and political activism at night. Parra was the hostess, cooking beans over an open fire to share, and participating with the other artists. At other times, however, the tent was desolate, or it was too rainy and cold to be hospitable, and Parra suffered from poverty and loneliness.
The film concludes with Parra's suicide, on 5 February 1967.Francisca Gavilán as Violeta Parra
Gabriela Aguilera as Hilda Parra
Daniel Antivilo as Sr. Mayer
Stephania Barbagelata as Carmen Luisa
Juan Quezada as Don Guillermo
Sergio Piña as Mario
Cristián Quevedo as Nicanor Parra
Francisco Acuña as the young Nicanor Parra
Thomas Durand as Gilbert Favre
Roberto Farías as Luis Arce
Vanesa González as Blonde Model
Luis Machín as Interviewer
Some parts of the film were shot in Argentina. The scene at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, France was shot there.
The film was positively reviewed by critics in Chile. Daniel Villalobos from the newspaper, La Tercera, highlighted the way Violeta Parra is represented in the film and said "this could be the most eye-catching and agile film its director has released." René Naranjo focused on Francisa Gavilán’s acting, referring to it as "emotional and outstanding, a Violeta full of qualities that gave unity to the ensemble and shed light on a personality that was marked by contrasts." Ana Josefa Silva of La Segunda wrote "in the end, it is a story brimming with truth, with passion, with happiness, and with profound sadness. [Violeta is] intensely vital and awesome".
Violeta Went to Heaven was selected by the National Council of Culture and the Arts as the Chilean entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 84th Academy Awards, but it did not make the final shortlist. Violeta se fue a los cielos was nominated for eight other awards in 2012. At the Argentinean Film Critics Association Awards it was nominated for the Silver Condor in the category of Best Foreign Film, Spanish language. At the Ariel Awards in Mexico it was nominated for the Silver Ariel for the Best Latin-American Film. At the Goya Awards it was nominated for the Goya in the category of Best Iberoamerican Film. At the Miami Film Festival it was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize in the Ibero-American Competition and received a special mention in Dramatic Features-Ibero-American Cinema Competition.
Violeta se fue a los cielos was awarded the World Cinema Jury Prize (Dramatic) at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. It won the FIPRESCI Prize for Best Film at the 2012 Guadalajara Mexican Film Festival. At the same festival, Francisca Gavilán won the Mayahuel Award for the Best Actress according to the Ibero-American jury. At the Lima Latin American Film Festival Fransisca Gavilán won a Best Actress Special Mention. Finally, the film won the French Latin American film festival in Toulouse it won the prize awarded by the public for the Best Film.
Francisca Galiván, the actress who plays Violeta, sang all of Violeta’s songs herself in the film. The film also showcases songs that are sung with Violeta’s sister, Hilda and Hilda’s daughter, Carmen Luisa. A song sung by a farmer is also included. 28 July 2011, before the film itself had been released, the soundtrack appeared on Soundcloud. Some songs that are heard in the film do not appear on the soundtrack, such as "El Cardenal" and "Gracias a la vida".