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Sundance 2020 Review: "Broken Orchestra" (2019) ★★★


It’s difficult to recall the remarkable number of times I have walked past signs saying that the government has cut off school funding whereas strikes for better pay or more vacation days are more frequently seen than anything else. Of course, each country has its own demands, and that’s not what I am disputing in here. However, when it comes to school reforms, the core concept of the need for quality child education or art classes or teaching music is what we all are collectively failing to understand. The lesson is that the government can do whatever it wants to save money, but what we do as a community to step up is what determines the spirit of those individuals who are willing to fight not for their own well being, but for others.

“Broken Orchestra” is a documentary short about the Symphony for a Broken Orchestra organized after over 1500 broken instruments were repaired after being sent to retirement due to fund cuts by the government. It’s the massive effort from a Philadelphia community that had to step up in order to bring music back to school. Within 12 minutes of previewing the documentary from Charlie Tyrell, you will learn the strength and power of Philadelphians and how they came together to save the dying music education program due to the loss of funds.

“Broken Orchestra” is a well-structured short documentary that lets its interviewees talk to the audience through the small screen while the musical instruments shine as the main actors of this film. Through various guests, contributors, innovators, educators, volunteers, and organizers behind Symphony for a Broken Orchestra, we learn a lot from the impact this Philadelphia school had to suffer and the emotional gains it got afterward when people offered a hand to resurrect what was about to get hammered by the government. In the end, it shows that nothing is really impossible and with the unity of a community it is possible to fix anything that is broken, be it human relationships or musical instruments.

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