In “Landfill Harmonic,” An Impoverished Community Turns Trash Into Musical Instruments To Create A Children’s Orchestra


December 13, 2016 — This story is true, inspiring — and almost hard to believe.

Cateura, Paraguay is an area inhabited by thousands of people so impoverished that they sift through the huge landfill dumps to find things to sell in order to help support their families.

A failed recycling plan brought Favio Chávez, an environmental engineer, to the area. once his project ended, he decided to stay and teach the local children music. But, in an are this poor, instruments were almost impossible to acquire.

Mr. Chávez and a local named Nicolás Gómez, set about making instruments for the children out of found objects. They created violins, cellos, drums — out of the discarded refuse they were able to discover. 

Soon the children who would otherwise never have journeyed out of their own hometowns were traveling around the world with The Recycled orchestra of Cateura, an orchestra whose instruments were created almost entirely from trash.

The group has played for exalted audiences, including royalty and Pope Francis. They have backed up Stevie Wonder, Metallica and Megadeth. They play Mozart, Frank Sinatra, pop and classical.

The success of the orchestra has helped the entire community. But according to Chávez, one of the biggest changes came when the community began to realize how important educating their children is, and what a difference an education can make in their lives. 

The acclaimed documentary Landfill Harmonic, directed by Brad Allgood and Graham Townsley and Juliana Penaranda-Loftus, has won more than 22 awards throughout the festival circuit. 

Landfill Harmonic is available in DVD and Blu-ray.

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