Music has transformed the lives of an entire community in Paraguay after the launch of a unique project called the Recycled Instruments Orchestra of Cateura. Children who play in the chamber music orchestra, which is a showcasing act at South by Southwest, make music by playing instruments made out of trash.
In 2006, music director Favio Chavez launched the project as a motivational tool for the children of this impoverished community, which is located next to the Cateura landfill. Many of the children’s parents are trash pickers with limited resources, and some of the children have also picked trash themselves.
Landfill Harmonic, the documentary that follows the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura, also premiered at SXSW this week. In fact, it was during the filming of the documentary that filmmakers launched a Kickstarter fundraising campaign and also posted a movie trailer. After the video went viral, the lives of the orchestra began to change when they suddenly had a global spotlight on them. They began receiving invitations to play internationally, forever changing how the children and community thought about recycled items, music and their future.
Cellist Noelia Rios, 14, comes from a family of trash pickers. “It’s beautiful how these doors have opened for me and my family that I never imagined,” she said in Spanish. Rios’ family used to live in a humble residence, and thanks to the orchestra gigs they’ve been able to move into a comfortable home.
“The most rewarding part for me has been seeing the kids grow, get scholarships and know that it’s worth it to take a risk,” Chavez said in Spanish. “They’ve not only stepped onto a musical stage, but onto the stage of life.”
Director Brad Allgood says the film will screen at upcoming festivals in New York and Washington, DC, and hopes to have a theatrical release as well.