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“Landfill Harmonic”, the award-winning environmental documentary, tells the story of Paraguay’s Orquesta de Reciclados.
The cello is made with a gas tank, pieces of wood, and a spoon. The drum skin is an old radiography. The sax is an old water pipe covered in used bottle caps. The outcome? The perfect symphony of circular economy. We are talking about the Orquesta de Reciclados de Cateura, a Paraguayan orchestra that uses instruments made out of garbage. The orchestra is the protagonist of Landfill Harmonic, a documentary that was recently awarded the equivalent of an Oscar for environmental cinema at the Dominican Republic Environmental Film Festival.
The documentary tells the incredible story of a group of musicians from Cateura, a community that lives in the shadow of a huge landfill. Here, the visionary music teacher Favio Chávez, the luthier and ex garbage picker Nicolas Gómez, and a group of kids decide to transform a heap of garbage into musical instruments capable of producing high level music.
The story of this unusual orchestra begins over 8 years ago, as Favio Chávez is working on a recycling project in Cateura’s landfill. In this area, over 40% of children drop out of school because they have to work to help support their families. Chávez, an environmental engineer with music experience, decides to help local kids by teaching them music. The initial idea is to keep the children off the landfill. The experiment is incredibly successful and leads to a problem: too many children, too few instruments. Chávez then takes the help of Nicolas, a garbage picker, to build new instruments from pieces of trash. Wind and string instruments are built with tin cans, forks, bottle caps, and whatever they manage to find in the landfill. The final result is more than satisfying: the recycled instruments sound better than many of the instruments made in China that children are often given to practice before switching to a professional instrument.
The orchestra grows from a few elements to 35 musicians, and its first time in the spotlight comes with the teaser of Landfill Harmonic, the documentary by Brad Allgood and Graham Townsley. The full documentary will be available online from this November.