Broken Orchestra Image

Broken Orchestra

By Alan Ng | March 23, 2020

SXSW 2020 FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW! It’s no surprise that music and the arts in public schools are not a priority for those holding the purse strings. Rather than give up, some school districts resort to more creative methods to keep the arts alive in classrooms. One such attempt is documented in Charlie Tyrell’s short film, Broken Orchestra.

In 2007, the Philadelphia public-school system lost its funding for music education. When the program ended, music classrooms went silent and hundreds of instruments were moved into storage—most of them broken. In 2017, the broken instruments were discovered, and several members of the community proposed an event to raise funds to fix the instruments and return them into the hands of students.

Broken Orchestra is a story of the American never-say-die spirit. When the government is just not coming around to solve your problems, you find a way to solve it yourself. Rather than have, as the filmmakers describe as innovators, educators, volunteers, advocates, and musicians, simply sit on a chair and tell their story, director Tyrell attempts something different…something unique.

“…members of the community proposed an event to raise funds to fix the instruments and return them into the hands of students.”

All those involved in the Symphony for a Broken Orchestra project sat for a traditional talking head interview. What Tyrell does is open his short “floating” his camera through the hallways and down the stairwell of a public school. Televisions are placed along the way with each person telling their segment of the story.

As the camera moves from room-to-room, some rooms are used to tell part of the story. One room had old instrument cases providing imagery for the point being made. Other rooms utilized animation to make another point. The way the short is shot, it all feels like one continuous shot telling one cohesive story (though you can see obvious breaks). Though it feels like it was pulled from music videos, this style of visual storytelling absolutely works in getting its main point across.

Broken Orchestra is a compelling story of human ingenuity contributing to the betterment of our school. The overall camera gimmick works, and the immense amount of time and choreography that filmmaker spent putting this short together was worth it. I think seeing a unique way to tell a story like this was successful in engaging the audience to its message.

Broken Orchestra was scheduled to screen at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival.

Broken Orchestra (2020)

Directed and Written: Charlie Tyrell

Starring: Symphony for a Broken Orchestra, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

Broken Orchestra Image

"…open his short “floating” his camera through the hallways and down the stairwell of a public school."

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