Crescendo: the power of music
A New Film Documentary
Jamie Bernstein, director
Elizabeth Kling, producer
Since its inception in 1976, El Sistema, Venezuela’s phenomenal youth orchestra program, has brought social transformation to several million disadvantaged children in that country. In addition to producing world class musicians like conductor Gustavo Dudamel, El Sistema is now a rapidly expanding global movement, changing countless young lives worldwide.
How will El Sistema work here in the USA?
Our film is an in-depth, verité based look at three kids — two in West Philadelphia and one in New York City’s Harlem — as they participate in a pair of Sistema-inspired youth orchestra programs. We watch as our kids struggle to master their instruments, confronting their fears along the way, and interacting with their talented, dedicated teachers. We witness the children evolving before our eyes.
In Stanford Thompson’s Play On, Philly! program, 11 year old Raven is a natural on the violin, but her energetic spirit keeps getting her in trouble. We also meet quiet, quirky Zebadiah, 13, whose viola brings him out of his loneliness.
Meanwhile, in Harlem, Anne Fitzgibbon’s Harmony Program nurtures troubled Mohamed, their 11 year old trombone star, whose failing grades are casting a shadow on his music-making.
Surprises, heartbreak and joy come in big doses as we watch our three young people, and the community around them, responding to the mysterious power of
ABOUT EL SISTEMA
Founded in Venezuela in 1975 by Dr. Jose Antonio Abreu, El Sistema is a tested model of how a music program can create both great musicians, and dramatically change the life trajectory of hundreds of thousands of a nation’s most needy children, deeply benefitting youth from all backgrounds who participate. It now teaches music to more than 500,000 of Venezuela’s most vulnerable children, and hundreds of thousands more young people around the globe.
For more information about El Sistema in the U.S. and around the world, please visit www.elsistemausa.org.
JAMIE BERNSTEIN (director) is a writer, narrator and filmmaker. Inspired by her father Leonard Bernstein’s lifelong compulsion to share and teach, Jamie has devised multiple ways of communicating her own excitement about classical music. In addition to “The Bernstein Beat,” a family concert about her father modeled after his own groundbreaking Young People’s Concerts, Jamie has also written and narrated concerts about Mozart, Copland and Stravinsky, among others. Jamie travels the world as a concert narrator, appearing everywhere from Beijing to Caracas to Vancouver. Most recently, she has been creating and narrating scripts for the New World Symphony’s Discovery Concert series. In addition to writing her own scripts and narrations, Jamie writes articles and poetry, which have appeared in such publications as Symphony, DoubleTake, Town & Country and Gourmet. She also edits “Prelude, Fugue & Riffs,” a newsletter about issues and events pertaining to her father’s legacy.
ELIZABETH KLING (producer) is an editor and producer working in the film and television industry in New York and Los Angeles for over 20 years. She began her editing career in New York working with Robert Altman and went on to edit many films such as Zebrahead and Imaginary Crimes directed by Anthony Drazan, Georgia directed by Ulu Grosbard and Addicted to Love and Practical Magic for Griffin Dunne. She edited the documentary, Andy Warhol: Made in China directed by Lee Caplin and was Contributing Editor on Errol Morris’s The Thin Blue Line. Elizabeth was Editor and Associate Producer for HBO’s acclaimed series Deadwood, and Lionsgate’s Crash. She edited the pilot for HBO’s Big Love and AMC’s The Killing. She was Executive Producer for the feature film, Handsome Harry directed by Bette Gordon, and is currently producing Border Crossing directed by Bette Gordon. Elizabeth has also taught at Columbia University and the Sundance Film Lab.
ANTHONY DRAZAN (co-director) is a director who writes and produces movies and television and his credits include: ZEBRAHEAD featuring Michael Rapaport and N’Bushe Wright (1992 Sundance Film Festival Filmmakers Trophy; Official Selection 1992 New York Film Festival); IMAGINARY CRIMES featuring Harvey Keitel, Fairuza Balk, and 11-year-old Elizabeth Moss; HURLYBURLY -David Rabe’s screen adaptation of his stage play – featuring Sean Penn, Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright Penn, Anna Paquin, Chazz Palmintieri, Meg Ryan, and Garry Shandling (1998 Venice Film Festival Golden Lion Finalist, Volpi Award Winner). His Television credits include: TRINITY (Director); EDNY (Writer, Director, Producer); the LARRY SANDERS SHOW; and THE WEST WING (Director). Drazan was a 1988 Sundance Filmmakers Fellow and has been an advisor at the writing and directing labs since 2000. He also served as a mentor/advisor at International Labs in Mexico, Brazil, and Jordan and as a guest lecturer, adjunct, and visiting professor at Columbia University, AFI, NYU, FIND, and the Ghetto Film School.
CLAUDIA RASCHKE-ROBINSON (director of cinematography) is an award winning cinematographer. She has photographed independent feature films and documentaries for over 20 years. Her background training is in dance, martial arts and fine arts. Notable documentaries include Oscar-nominated God is the bigger Elvis (HBO) Peabody Award winning documentary Black Magic (ESPN), A Sea Change (Discovery),What’s Your Point, Honey? (Lifetime), Mad Hot Ballroom (Paramount), Oscar-nominated My Architect (add’l DP), Oscar-nominated Small Wonder (add’l DP), Oscar nominated Sister Rose’s Passion (add’l DP) as well as indie features like Kiss Me Guido, Walking in the Sky, Frame of Mind.
JONATHAN OPPENHEIM (editor) has edited numerous award-winning documentaries, including Children Underground (Sundance Special Jury Prize, nominated for the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature), Paris is Burning (Sundance Grand Jury Prize, winner of NY & LA Critics Award), Streetwise (Academy Award winner Best Documentary, Sundance Grand Jury Prize), Sister Helen (nominated Grand Jury Prize at Sundance), and most recently The Oath (HotDocs Special Jury Prize).
SKIP LIEVSAY (sound designer) is one of the leading sound designers in the industry, with an outstanding history of collaborating with major American filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, the Coen Brothers, and John Sayles. Lievsay served as sound editor for all of the Coens’ movies from “Blood Simple” (1984), to “A Serious Man” (2009) including “No Country For Old Men” (2007) for which he received 2 Academy Award nominations., He worked on several films for John Sayles including “Matewan” (1987) and “City of Hope” (1991). He designed sound for Jonathan Demme’s “The Silence of the Lambs” (1992). When Coen Brother DP Barry Sonnenfeld began directing films, Lievsay supervised and mixed “Men In Black” (1995) and others including “Big Trouble” (2000) and “Men in Black 2” (2001). Lievsay has also worked as Sound Supervisor and/or Re-recordind Mixer for many directors including Robert Altman, Arthur Penn, Tim Burton, Alfonso Curron, Ang Lee, John Singleton, Danny DeVito, Cameron Crowe, Ralph Backshi and John Waters.
CAROLE HAAS GRAVAGNO