Last September 18th, the Green Film Network Award “green carpet” was rolled out for the third time, this year in Santo Domingo. Here, with the occasion of DREFF –Dominican Republic Environmental Film Festival, the Oscar of environmental cinema was given to Landfill Harmonic, a documentary film directed by Brad Allgood e Graham Townsley.
A group of kids who needs a chance, two men who have a good idea, a rabblement of trash transformed into instruments that can produce high level music: the story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay is touching, and beautiful. The same Brad Allgood tells it to us:
“For a documentary filmmaker, it’s rare to find a story that captivates, inspires, entertains and educates all at once. The film is a modern-day fairy tale that teaches important lessons of ingenuity, hard work, perseverance and the importance of never giving up on your dreams. Built in the shadow of a massive landfill, the community of Cateura survives off of selling recyclable materials collected from the trash”.
“There are no formal services, and educational opportunities are extremely limited. Without the necessary tools to improve their quality of life, most children in Cateura are caught in the vicious cycle of poverty. Most children cease to dream of a better future. But something special happened in Cateura. Visionary music teacher Favio Chávez, humble trash picker-turned-luthier Nicolas “Colá” Gómez, and a group of dedicated kids joined forces to create a project that is changing the cultural tendencies of the community. This project is the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura”.
In this peculiar orchestra, for example, the cello is made from an oil can and wood that was thrown away in the garbage, a spoon used to tenderize beef and a tool which was used to make gnocchi. “What started as a simple idea to provide music education to children in Cateura is now the cultural centerpiece of the community and a source of inspiration for many around the world.”
The experience of getting to know such a reality during the shooting becomes an unmissable opportunity for growth. “Favio and the orchestra members confided their dreams and fears openly. Even when their community was in the midst of tragedy, they allowed us into their homes and trusted us with their emotions during their most vulnerable moments. The experience of meeting the kids and families of Cateura while making this film taught me to be more appreciative of the opportunities that I’ve had over the course of my life, and they will forever remain a source of inspiration and encouragement for me” the director continues. “I can only hope that audiences who see this film will be moved in some small way and carry that same spark of inspiration with them”.
After all, films can create an emotional connection with the audience, like few other communication media do. “Film is one of the few mediums that can connect viscerally with audiences, and I believe that connecting with audiences on an emotional level through film is the most powerful use of the medium. We are bombarded with millions and millions of bytes of information on a daily basis, but information alone does not inspire action. With Landfill Harmonic, our goal is to present layers of themes and messaging buried inside an entertaining and emotional narrative, so that the information is absorbed without audiences even realizing it. We want audiences to leave the theatre, or finish watching the film, with a mix of bittersweet emotions that sticks with them for days, or perhaps even weeks or longer. If we want to see change in our economic systems to incentivize conservation and stewardship of the environment, then we need to make films that persuade with logic and move people emotionally”.
This stylistic combo may be the reason why the documentary film have received so far other two awards inside Green Film Network: the Inspiring Lives Award at San Francisco Green Film Festival 2015 and the Best Documentary Award at Ecocup 2016.
“The style of Landfill Harmonic is based on our desire to allow the characters to drive the narrative, since they are the heart and soul of the film. We wanted to highlight the common humanity, dignity and ingenuity of the people who live in Cateura. Thus, we allow the images of the landfill and community to speak for themselves” the director concludes. “Our ultimate goal is to create an emotional experience for the audience while delivering several key messages: never stop dreaming; culture is a basic human need; music can transform lives; and, like Favio says in the closing scene of the film, to have nothing is not an excuse to do nothing. May we all take that lesson to heart and use the resources at our disposal to make the world a better place for future generations”.