- 4 November, 2009
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“Originally art was made by a minority for a minority. Then it became art by a minority for the majority, and now we are at the beginning of a new era where art is intended by the majority for the majority.” – José Antonio Abreu
Three decades ago, visionary Venezuelan musician and politician José Antonio Abreu founded El Sistema, a national system of music education designed as a model for social improvement. Today, some 265,000 Venezuelan children and young people are involved in choirs and orchestras around the country, and El Sistema is exporting some of the world’s finest musicians.
El Sistema takes us from the barrios of Caracas and Maracay to the concert hall of the Lucerne Festival, following the lives of children who have found the way to a better future through the model of the symphony orchestra.
This lyrical and moving documentary shows us young children and their families in their home environments. They speak of their everyday hopes and fears: of gang warfare and gunfire, drugs and violence, and the dream of a better life through education and music. “To my mind, our social problems all stem from a sense of exclusion”, says Abreu. “If you look at the world, you see that exclusion in some form or other is to blame for the explosion of social problems everywhere. So we have to fight to bring as many people as we can, everyone, if possible, into our wonderful world: the world of music, the world of the orchestra, of singing, of art.”
El Sistema shows how children as young as two are taken from the dangers of life on the street and taught the rudiments of music. In one of hundreds of “núcleos” created within the communities themselves they are provided with instruments, music lessons, social support and the chance to work as part of an ensemble. Six days a week, four hours a day, children come together and make music in a safe and supportive environment.
Given acceptance, encouragement and inspiration, they quickly develop into capable musicians. For some, that means better tools for future study in other fields. Others go on to play in the world’s top orchestras. Gustavo Dudamel, now in demand on the world’s best stages, conducts the flagship Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra in Caracas and talks of his own experience as a child growing up with El Sistema. His is just one of many stories of transformation and hope.
Quirky, exuberant, honest and heart-warming, El Sistema is both an unlikely journey and an exceptional success story. Paul Smaczny and Maria Stodtmeier have created a joyful portrait of the power of music as a positive tool for social change.
The film earned several awards like the “Grand Prix” of the Golden Prague Festival, the “Special Jury Prize” in the category “Feature Length Film Awards” and the “Feature Film Competition Award” in the category “The Ecofilms Team Awards” of the Rodos Ecofilms Festival.