With Women’s History Month well underway, an icon known as much for her activism as her artistry has made a timely return to the limelight with the SXSW premiere of Joan Baez: I Am a Noise. The documentary begins almost at the end, or at least what the legendary folk singer, now 82, considers her final stage act; the 2018-19 Fare Thee Well tour, which saw Baez sell out 134 dates from Stockholm to Madrid, coincided with the release of her first album in a decade, the Grammy-nominated Whistle Down the Wind (Proper).

The filmmakers had done a shoot with Baez in 2013, but it was her career-capping tour that provided the impetus to begin a documentary in earnest. They discovered a veritable gold mine—diary entries, letters, artwork, home movies, audio recordings and other archival material saved by Baez’s parents—and what could have simply been a concert film about the end of an era became far more.

As the film (directed by Karen O'Connor, Miri Navasky and Maeve O'Boyle and produced by Navasky and O'Connor) flashes between past and present, we return to key moments in Baez’s life as an activist, including her rendering of “Oh Freedom” at the 1963 March on Washington. (You'll find a more intimate performance of the song below.) We also learn that she was bullied at school for being a “dumb Mexican” and hear how her parents’ peaceful protests and political outlook contributed to her own, which was cemented when she heard—and eventually befriended—Martin Luther King Jr. “Social consciousness was born in me before the voice developed,” Baez says.

Baez’s life was often literally on the line, whether she was marching and singing for civil rights, rallying against the Vietnam War, standing with Cesar Chavez and migrant farmworkers striking for fair wages or participating in the movement for nuclear disarmament. The “We Shall Overcome” singer also founded the Institute for the Study of Nonviolence and performed at concerts in support of gay rights and on the Amnesty International Conspiracy of Hope tour, to name but a few of the worthy causes to which she’s lent her energy and copious talent.

In the new millennium, her activism persisted with protests against the U.S. invasion of Iraq, support for Barack Obama’s presidential run, a song—penned by Zoe Mulford—honoring the victims of the 2015 Charleston church shooting and Obama’s tearful eulogy (“The President Sang Amazing Grace,” which appears on Whistle Down the Wind) and, most recently, work on behalf of the Ukraine Children’s Action Project.

I Am a Noise also delves into some of Baez’s personal relationships, including the famously turbulent one with a young Bob Dylan and her short marriage to political activist and journalist David Harris. The latter was in prison for dodging the draft when their son, Gabriel (who played percussion on Baez’s farewell tour), was born. There are also revelations about strained family relationships and, for the first time, recollections of abuse at the hands of her father.

Ultimately, the documentary sheds new light on the highs and lows of one history-making woman’s multilayered life. And while Baez has insisted that she’s done with touring—that her voice has told her it’s time—the impact of her art and commitment will doubtless endure.