The Landfillharmonic

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The world generates about a billion tons of garbage a year. Those who live with it and from it are the poor – like the people of Cateura, Paraguay. And here they are transforming it into beauty. Landfill Harmonic follows the Orchestra as it takes its inspiring spectacle of trash-into-music around the world. Follow the lives of a garbage picker, a music teacher and a group of children from a Paraguayan slum that out of necessity started creating instruments entirely out of garbage. Landfill Harmonic is a beautiful story about the transformative power of music, which also highlights two vital issues of our times: poverty and waste pollution.


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The Crew Bios

Alejandra Amarilla (Founder & Executive Producer) Integrating philanthropy and a commitment to community service into her daily life and vision, Alejandra has aided a variety of social causes, previously putting her efforts behind Free Arts of Arizona through the documentary film Unleashing Creativity, which she co-directed. Born in Asuncion, Paraguay, her idea of making a documentary about her native country became the first step for her in creating awareness regarding children’s causes in Paraguay. Landfill Harmonic, her latest endeavor, hits close to home and has become her love project.

Rodolfo Madero (Executive Producer) - Rodolfo started Eureka Productions in 1993 in México. His work crossed frontiers by the end of the 90‘s when he established his production house in Phoenix, AZ. In 2004, Eureka made its debut in Adweek Magazine, being recognized as one of the 30 most important production houses in the US. As a film composer and Executive Producer; he has taken part in full length features, short films and documentaries.

Belle Murphy. (Executive Producer) - Belle is an attorney who has dedicated her career to advocating for children and giving a voice to those unable to speak for themselves. She attended the University of Washington where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology. Belle then went on to earn her Juris Doctorate from Arizona State University. Prior to her involvement in Landfill Harmonic she spent seven years with the Maricopa County Attorney’s office as a prosecutor who specialized in domestic violence, child abuse and child homicide cases. Although Belle is no longer a prosecutor she continues her focus on child advocacy and improving the lives of children by contributing to projects such as Landfill Harmonic.

Juliana Penaranda-Loftus (Producer) – Juliana Penaranda-Loftus  began her career working in production for numerous primetime television shows in Colombia. After completing her Bachelor’s degree, she moved to the United States. She then completed her Masters in film and video at American University in Washington, DC. After September 11, she directed and produced a documentary about Aid Afghanistan, an organization fighting for the right to educate women. She has also produced three feature films and established her own production company, Hidden Village Films. In 2012 she was one of 8 women selected by the American Film Institute for their Directing Workshop for Women.

Graham Townsley (Director) – Graham Townsley is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker whose documentaries have been shown on PBS, The Discovery Channel, The History Channel and The National Geographic in the U.S.; Canal + in France; Channel 4 and the BBC in England. He founded Shining Red Productions in 2008. He is also an anthropologist with a Ph.D from Cambridge University. The New York Times referred to his three-part 2009 PBS series “Becoming Human” as “compelling…a well-paced series, which keeps adding beautiful layers of complexity.”

Jorge Maldonado (Co-producer/Second Camera) – Jorge Maldonado is the Creative Director and co-founder of Hyperactive Productions, a Washington, DC based company specializing in video production, motion graphics, animation, visual effects and bilingual voice-overs. His television credits include Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, TLC, Travel Channel, PBS and The Smithsonian Channel. He has also worked on numerous projects for non-profit organizations such as Conservation International, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Save The Children, and The World Bank.

Neil Barrett (Director of Photography) – Has worked on over 30 broadcast documentary films for National Geographic, BBC, PBS, Discovery, The History Channel,  NBC,  ABC and CNN. His films have been shown at the Sundance, Tribeca, Toronto, Fullframe,  SilverDocs, Jackson Hole and Los Angeles Film Festivals.  Three of his feature documentaries—”The Woodmans” (2010), “The Other City” (2009), and “Kicking it” (2008)– have been released theatrically in the United States.

Jon Fitzgerald (Consultant) – Jon Fitzgerald co-founded the Slamdance Film Festival in 1995 and was the Executive Director for the next two years before becoming the Festival Director at the American Film Institute, then Santa Barbara and Abu Dhabi International Film Festivals. In 2003, he formed a consulting firm that provided services to numerous filmmakers and film festivals around the world. After directing three Award winning documentaries, he launched, connecting socially relevant films to related causes, in addition to assisting filmmakers in the creation of movements in support of their film projects.



The Orchestra

Chávez got to know these kids and their families over 8 years ago while working on a waste recycling project at the landfill of Cateura. In this area more than 40% of children don’t finish school because their parents need them to work. Being an environmental engineer but with a musical background, one day he decided to help the children by teaching them music lessons. The idea was simply to keep the kids from playing in the landfill.

“At first it was very difficult because we had no place to rehearse and we had to teach in the same place where the parents were working in the trash,” said Chávez. “The children knew nothing about music and it was very difficult to contact parents because many of them do not live with their children.”

Eventually, parents began to see that playing music was keeping their kids out of trouble, some even reclaiming children they had previously abandoned.

Soon there were more children wanting lessons than there were instruments, so Chávez and Nicolas “Cola” one of the garbage pickers experimented with making some out of recycled materials from the landfill.  String and wind instruments are made with oil tin cans, forks, bottle caps, and whatever is around.  “Eventually the recycled instruments were improved, and in many cases, they now sound better than the wooden Made In China instruments the more able children play on.”

The recycled instruments serve another, more practical purpose: The kids can safely carry them. “For many children, it was impossible to give them a violin to take home because they had nowhere to keep it and their parents were afraid they would be robbed or the instrument would be sold to buy drugs.”

The Orchestra had remained unheard of for many years. The launching of the Landfill harmonic short teaser on the Internet triggered a social media events that changed this. “More things have happened in the last 7 months, than in the last 7 years on our lives”.

The Orchestra has grown from just a few musicians to over 35. Their recent fame have peak the interest of the families and children of the community in such way, that many children are now enrolling for music classes. The music school of Cateura, does not have their own building yet, but teaches music and how to build recycled instruments to more than 200 kids of the landfill.

To learn more about the Orchestra please visit


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