Posted by Jill Boniske aka Arty Chick on September 8, 2016
The town of Cateura in Paraguay is built on a landfill. Most of the people there make their meager livings sorting trash into sellable recyclables. 40% of the kids don’t finish school because they need to work and the main work is in the dump. There are few opportunities to move up economically or widen their view of the world. But into this community 8 years ago came Favio Chavez, an environmental consultant who was hired to make the recycling program more efficient and help the people of the community. But what he did next was unexpected, even to him. He decided to teach the young people to play music. And where would they get the instruments in a town where one cheap violin would be worth more than a family’s house? From the trash itself!
Landfill Harmonic is a very uplifting film about the power of music to engage young people and bring pride to a poor community. One of the trash workers, Cola, has some carpentry skills and volunteers to cobble together some ingenious instruments from pieces of garbage. A violin is made from a paint can, a fork and some odd bits of wood. A drum’s skin in fashioned from an old x-ray. The instruments don’t look like they could produce the beautiful sounds that the kids are eventually able bring out of them. The orchestra transforms them. You may remember when a video about them made the rounds a few years ago. It brought their story to a world-wide audience and gave them opportunities they never would have dreamed of, including Metallica (their favorite band) inviting them to perform with the band in the US! To see these kids, most of whom have never left their town get on planes and fly to big cities in S. American and the US, see the ocean for the first time, and grow to be proud of the music they can make with a bunch of garbage instruments is simply wonderful.
The film follows several of the young band members and their families’ as the music opens the world for them. And later when Cateura is hit with a catastrophic flood that destroys many of their houses, it is the band and the community of music that helps them all cope and carry on. I recommend this to all lovers of music and the spirit of human endurance. And as their teach says, “People realize that we shouldn’t throw away trash carelessly. Well, we shouldn’t throw away people either.”
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