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How did this movie come together for you as a director?

Landfill Harmonichas evolved very differently from my other films. The story unfolded over the

course of more than 5 years, so there have been many, many people involved in the production andpost-production. This has definitely been the most collaborative documentary of which I’ve been apart - from the nearly 5,000 Kickstarter backers, to the many camera operators, translators, fixers,field directors, sound recordists, editors, assistant editors, tour managers, venue managers, concerthall staff and supporters around the world - every single person that has been involved in this film,no matter how small their contribution, has been essential in completing this project. And of course,the willingness of Favio, the orchestra, and the community of Cateura to open their homes and livesto us is the foundation of the film. Without the amazing and inspiring families in Cateura, this filmwould not have been possible.

Back in 2009, Executive Producer Alejandra Amarilla and Producer Juliana Peñaranda-Loftus

started researching and developing the film, and the cameras began rolling in 2010. The filmmakingduo continued guiding the process and working with field directors to find characters and thebeginning of the story arc. In subsequent years, as the story evolved in ways that no one could haveimagined, it became necessary to additional crew due to multiple shooting locations around theworld. In late 2012 and early 2013, the story accelerated due to the film’s fundraising teaser goingviral - and that changed everything. It turned into a roller coaster ride for everyone involved, and itwas all very exciting. It was hard for the team to choose which storylines to follow. Emails poured infrom all over the world.

However, the fact that so many great things were happening for the orchestra presented a

challenge as a director and editor. After about 5 months of edit, we had a 90-minute rough cut, butthe overall story lacked some emotional ups and downs to keep things interesting for a feature. Wehad a lot of great, inspiring and interesting material, but it needed a little more contrast. Then, inJune of 2014, as we were wrapping up the edit, Paraguay was devastated by the largest flood inover 20 years. Nearly 300,000 people were displaced due to the flooding, and many members of the orchestra were flooded out of their homes. With delivery deadlines looming, we made a very difficult- and risky - decision to open up production again and cover the events surrounding the flood in Cateura.

It was an emotionally intense experience to see our friends in Paraguay dealing with such a great tragedy. But deep down, we also knew that they had the resilience and strength to overcome the devastation and rebuild. Thus, with limited budget and time running out, we took a skeleton crew to Paraguay on two shoots to cover the flood. And it was shocking. The community of Cateura sat under nearly 8 feet of water for two months as the 15,000 families in surrounding communities moved to higher ground, living in plywood shacks during that time.

Not knowing how the flood narrative would fit into the film, or how it would evolve, and how to

connect it to the rest of the film, we pressed forward with the edit. In the end, the flood became the ‘all hope is lost’ moment towards the end of Act II that shows how the orchestra became the glue that cemented the bonds of the families of Cateura, and provided a source of hope and inspiration during a very difficult time. Without their previous successes, the orchestra would not have been in the position to provide the assistance to the families most affected by the flood.

What was your biggest challenge with this movie and how did you overcome it?

The primary challenge of this film was finding a structure during the edit. Since the film was shot over the course of more than 5 years, there was a mountain of footage. And so much of it was so good. Because it was all very positive and the orchestra was being met with so much success, we had a steady emotional climb in the film with a few small narrative reversals, but we didn’t have the dynamic shifts we needed to keep the story interesting past about the 80 minute mark and land a solid ending.

To overcome the structural challenges, we were forced to make some tough decisions along the

way. We had to lift an entire 13 minute sequence from the film that follows the orchestra to Oslo, Norway - the cleanest city in the world - as they practice and perform an original piece of music composed for the orchestra by Norweigan jazz composer Jon Balke. We decided to lift the sequence at the end of the edit since the second half of Act II became a bit episodic and started to drag somewhat. However, I did integrate shots from the concert in Norway into a montage late in Act II.

In the end, we analyzed every scene to make sure that they were all on-theme. If a scene

meandered a bit, or wasn’t related to the film’s themes, then they were lifted from the film, or recut so that they were. Theme was the rudder that guided all decisions. In the case of this film, the main themes are quite simple: ‘transformation through music’ and ‘hard work and dedication can lead to fulfillment of goals.’

Brad Allgood (Director/Editor/Director of Photography)

Brad is an award-winning filmmaker with a background in international development and public health. His films have taken him into the heart of the Nicaraguan rainforest, as well as to remote Caribbean islands, the sparse Kalahari desert and dense African jungles. While working for PBS Marketing and Communications, he produced national campaigns for PBS programs including the Emmy Award-winning series Downton Abbey and the American Experience film Freedom Riders. Before transitioning to filmmaking, Brad served for 3 ½ years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nicaragua. He holds a M.A. in Film and Video Production from American University and a B.S. in Biology and Geology from the University of Georgia.


Favio Chávez got to know these kids and their families over 8 years ago while working on a waste recycling project at the landfill of Cateura. In this area more than 40% of children don’t finish school because their parents need them to work. Being an environmental engineer but with a musical background, one day he decided to help the children by teaching them music lessons.

The idea was simply to keep the kids from playing in the landfill.

“At first it was very difficult because we had no place to rehearse and we had to teach in the same place where the parents were working in the trash,” said Chávez. “The children knew nothing about music and it was very difficult to contact parents because many of them do not live with their children.”

Eventually, parents began to see that playing music was keeping their kids out of trouble, some

even reclaiming children they had previously abandoned. Soon there were more children wanting lessons than there were instruments, so Chávez and Nicolas “Cola” one of the garbage pickers experimented with making some out of recycled materials from the landfill. String and wind instruments are made with oil tin cans, forks, bottle caps, and whatever is around. “Eventually the recycled instruments were improved, and in many cases, they now sound better than the wooden Made In China instruments the more able children play on.”

The recycled instruments serve another, more practical purpose: The kids can safely carry them. “For many children, it was impossible to give them a violin to take home because they had nowhere to keep it and their parents were afraid they would be robbed or the instrument would be sold to buy drugs.”

The Orchestra had remained unheard of for many years. The launching of the Landfill harmonic

short teaser on the Internet triggered a social media events that changed this. “More things have happened in the last 7 months, than in the last 7 years on our lives”.

The Orchestra has grown from just a few musicians to over 35. Their recent fame has peak the

interest of the families and children of the community in such way, that many children are now

enrolling for music classes. The music school of Cateura now has their own building where teach music and how to build recycled instruments to more than 200 kids of the landfill, however they are still seeking support to complete it.

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