Oscar-nominated documentary The Last Repair Shop shows how ‘music can change lives’

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As it happens6:48 a.m.Canadian filmmaker Ben Proudfoot talks about his new Oscar-nominated short film

The small but mighty group of people who painstakingly repair the musical instruments of tens of thousands of Los Angeles public school students aren’t used to being in the spotlight.

But a new documentary brings their stories – and those of the children whose lives they improved – to the red carpet.

In their Oscar-nominated film The last repair shopBen Proudfoot, originally from Halifax, and Kris Bowers from Los Angeles tell the story of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s musical instrument repair shop, where 11 technicians service approximately 6,000 instruments each year for more than 1,300 schools across the city.

It is one of the last public school districts in the United States to maintain musical instruments free of charge.

“I was attracted to this kind of North Pole of musical instrument repair and was surprised and proud to learn that it was (one of) the last in the country,” Proudfoot said. As it happens host Nil Köksal.

The last repair shop, which is streamed for free on YouTubeis nominated for the 2024 Oscar for Best Documentary Short Film. Proudfoot won the category in 2022 For Queen of basketball.

Two men sit side by side, smiling, in front of an audience.
Filmmakers Kris Bowers, left, and Ben Proudfoot, right, co-directed The Last Repair Shop. (Breakwater Studios)

The repair shop operates out of a nondescript warehouse in downtown Los Angeles, where technicians pore over sticky-valved tubas, cracked violins and keyless clarinets, determined to fix what’s broken.

But on Tuesday morning, they took a break from their workbenches and celebrated with Proudfoot and Bowers when the Oscar nomination was announced.

Piano tuner Steve Bagmanyan, supervisor of the repair shop and one of the stars of the film, says it still doesn’t seem real.

“When my daughter was born, I didn’t really understand that I was a dad,” he told CBC. “So it’s the same with this.”

“We love what we do for our children”

Since the nominations were announced, Bagmanyan says he has been receiving non-stop text messages, emails and phone calls from people offering congratulations. And suddenly, everyone is interested in the work he has been doing quietly and without distinction for more than two decades.

“I’m very grateful for where I am today, for where God has brought me today, to have this incredible team and that we’re doing these incredible things for our kids,” he said. he declared.

“Oscar or not, at the end of the day we love what we do for our kids.”

A bald man smiles brightly at the camera.
Steve Bagmanyan is the musical instrument repair shop supervisor for the Los Angeles Unified School District. (Breakwater Studios)

For children, instruments can be a lifesaver.

In the documentary, a student says she doesn’t know what she would do if she didn’t have her violin. Another says she is overwhelmed by the pressures of life, but playing the piano clears it. Another says he never dreamed he would one day play the sousaphone, an instrument his parents could never have afforded to buy him.

You can’t fix everything that’s broken. But sometimes it is possible. And for that one time out of 10 you can, it’s worth it.-Ben Proudfoot

The students featured in the film come from the Colburn School in Los Angeles, a music and arts school that co-director Bowers also attended.

The last repair shop is a wonderful testament to the power of the performing arts,” school spokeswoman Jennifer Kallend said in an email. “We are thrilled that the stories of Colburn students will be told in such a moving way .”

“Stand up and encourage music and arts education”

Bagmanyan and his colleagues always knew their work was meaningful. But thanks to the documentary, they were able to see this impact for themselves.

“At the screenings…I got to talk to these students and it was just amazing to see how much music has changed their lives, how much they’ve improved in school, how much energy they had, positive energy,” Bagmanyan said.

“Music can do wonderful things. Music can change lives. Music can take you off the streets. Music can fill you with joy, with happiness.”

WATCH | The Last Repair Shop, Oscar nominee:

Proudfoot says the kids in the film taught him how transformative an instrument can be.

“It can attract people. It gives you a tool to express yourself. It teaches you creativity, collaboration and sensitivity. And these are all things we need in our schools and in our world today “, did he declare.

“So this film is a way to inspire people to stand up and encourage music and arts education across the world.”

It’s not just students whose lives have been transformed by music. The people who repair instruments all have their own stories to tell – from traveling the country with a $20 violin found at a flea market, to leaving home to pursue the American dream, to growing up gay in the 70s or even to survive ethnic cleansing. .

And at the center of every story is music and the desire to repair – and heal.

“We all have broken relationships, broken promises. The world is, in many ways, broken. And I think these people represent an optimism that sometimes you can rebuild things with enough effort and care and patience,” Proudfoot said. .

“You can’t fix everything that’s broken. But sometimes you can. And for the one time out of ten that you can, it’s worth doing. And I think there aren’t many lessons better than that.”

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