Searchlight Pictures and the L.A. Times Studios today announced that the Oscar nominated documentary short film The Last Repair Shop, is now streaming on Disney+ and Hulu, reaching nearly 200 million total subscribers.
From Oscar® and Grammy®-nominated and Emmy®-winning filmmaker, musician and LAUSD star alumni Kris Bowers (A Concerto is a Conversation, Green Book, King Richard, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story) and Oscar® winning director Ben Proudfoot (two-time Oscar® nominee for The Queen of Basketball and A Concerto is a Conversation), comes The Last Repair Shop, a film about LAUSD’s unique free and freely-repaired musical instrument repair shop, which helped launch countless illustrious careers and millions of music lovers.
Kris Bowers and Ben Proudfoot stated, “We are enormously grateful to the Academy’s Documentary Branch for lifting up this story and we are deeply honored to lead the charge to bring The Last Repair Shop to the 96th Oscars. This film is about magnifying love and the people whose love makes the world go around. The fixers. The helpers. Those who lift us up with song. It is our duty to support and encourage and applaud them. Love, music, healing; these are the things that make the world go around and we found that story in an inconspicuous corner of LA’s public school district. This nomination is a win for the repair shop, for Los Angeles, and for all music loving people who believe in the will to repair. In many places in the world, young people have zero access to musical instruments. This nomination can help send a powerful message. You can’t stop the music.”
The Last Repair Shop had its world premiere at the 2023 Telluride Film Festival. It subsequently had its international premiere at the Calgary International Film Festival where it won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary Short. The film also won the Matt Decample Audience Choice Award for Best Short at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival and the Audience Award for Special Presentation at the Middleburg Film Festival where co-director Kris Bowers also received the Sheila Johnson Vanguard Award. In an early review, Awards Daily said, “The Last Repair Shop speaks to our humanity and highlights how important the arts are to our development, growth, and survival.” BGR named The Last Repair Shop the best documentary of 2023.
The film has also received honors such as the Critics Choice Documentary Award for Best Short Documentary and was nominated for Best Score. It was nominated for Best Score by the Hollywood Music in Media Awards, Outstanding Independent Short Film by the Black Reel Awards, and Best Short by the Hollywood Creative Alliance’s (HCA) Astra Film Awards. The film was also included on DOC NYC’s influential 15-film Short List as well as the Cinema Eye Honors’ 10-film Shorts List.
Once commonplace in the United States, today Los Angeles is by far the largest and one of the last American cities to provide free and freely repaired musical instruments to its public schoolchildren, a continuous service since 1959. The Last Repair Shop grants an all access pass to the nondescript downtown warehouse where a dwindling handful of devoted craftspeople keep over 80,000 student instruments in good repair.
Led by the charming general manager, Steve Bagmanyan, the film introduces a technician from each department: Dana Atkinson, in the strings division, who takes us to his personal breaking point as a young man confronting his sexuality; Paty Moreno, in charge of brass and the sole woman in the shop, who chronicles her pursuit of the American dream as a Mexican immigrant and single mother; Duane Michaels, a quirky, self-described hillbilly who fixes the woodwind instruments and shares the rip-roaring tale of how his $20 fiddle took him on tour with Elvis; and finally Steve himself, who learned to tune pianos in America after surviving a harrowing escape from ethnic persecution in Azerbaijan in the late 1980s, a conflict again in the headlines today.
The film blends the unexpectedly intimate personal histories of the repair people with emotional, firsthand accounts from the actual student musicians for whom their instruments made all the difference. Porché, 9, shares how her beloved violin helps her cope with her family’s health problems; college-bound Manuel, 18, states that his enormous sousaphone diverted him from the pitfalls of growing up as a low-income kid from Boyle Heights; Ismerai, 15, whose alto sax brought her much-needed discipline and calm; and the bookish Amanda, 17, brought to tears by her profound connection with the piano.
“I found out that Steve, one of the main storytellers in the film, personally tuned the school pianos that I grew up playing and learning on,” said Co-Director Kris Bowers, “I had no idea this shop existed until I started making the film with Ben, but The Last Repair Shop became a passionate love letter paying a delayed debt of gratitude to those unsung heroes who gave me and countless others the gift of music. It’s not too much to say I owe my career to people like the four repair people in our film.”
“Every child deserves the opportunity to play music,” said Bowers’ Co-Director Ben Proudfoot, “Because music is not only a worthy discipline and sometimes a wonderful career, but it can also be a healing force that can repair our deepest traumas and teach us to play our part. With The Last Repair Shop, we wanted to celebrate that spirit and pay tribute to a truly unique program that has produced countless legends from John Williams to Kendrick Lamar.”
Since its premiere, The Last Repair Shop has screened at four LAUSD schools for thousands of public-school students. At each screening, students had the opportunity to interact with the filmmakers and the repair shop staff. In addition to the screenings, the students enjoyed a live performance by Kris with special guests including Grammy-nominated artists such as Kamasi Washington and Alex Isley.