The Last Repair Shop took home the award for Best Documentary Short Film


Violinist Porché Brinker, and directors Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers accepting the award | Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times

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The 2024 Oscars took place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles on the evening of 10 March. The Best Documentary Short Film category – which was presented by actresses Kate McKinnon and America Ferrera – was was won by the documentary The Last Repair Shop, which focuses on the craftspeople dedicated to repairing instruments for school children in Los Angeles, including string instruments. One of the young violinists featured in the documentary, 12-year-old Porché Brinker, came onstage with the documentary’s directors, Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers, to receive the award. 

The 40-minute documentary follows four instrument repairers and shops (focusing on pianos, strings, brass instruments and wind instruments) working for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) music instrument repair program, which began in 1959. The four craftspeople – Dana Atkinson, Duane Michaels, Paty Moreno and Steve Bagmanyan – oversee the maintenance of over 80,000 instruments. The program is one of the last remaining of its kind in the United States. The LAUSD is the largest school district in the US, and only twelve craftspeople are tasked with repairing students’ instruments. The LAUSD aims to offer music teaching in every of its primary schools, as well as free instruments for those in music programs. Bowers is himself a gradaute of the LAUSD. 

The repair of several instruments are featured in the movie, including the violin, which can be seen in the very first scene, where Brinker is seen holding her instrument and saying, ‘I love the violin. If I didn’t have my violin from school, I would probably, I don’t know what I’d do. Don’t even jinx me with that.’ The camera is then placed within the body of a violin while it is being repaired, and the luthier’s workshop and work process are shown. 

In his speech, co-director Kris Bowers expressed the uniqueness and importance of the programme, saying ‘The Last Repair Shop is about the heroes in our schools who often go unsung, unthanked and unseen. Tonight, you are sung, you are thanked and you are seen.’ And about music education in state schools he said, ‘Music education isn’t just about creating incredible musicians – it’s about creating incredible human beings.’ 

The documentary has also spurred on a $15 million campaign by the LAUSD, revealed last month, investing in the repair workshops and its technicians. 

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