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The Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio Rocks

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On Thursday (10/11) at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, LAist checked out a screening/cineconcert of the documentary The Orchestra - A True Story from Piazza Vittorio, which is scheduled for release on Oct. 23 through Netflix’s Red Envelope Entertainment division for Academy Award consideration.

Directed by Agostino Ferrente, the film chronicles the formation of an Italian orchestra to help save the old Apollo Cinema in Rome from its fate as a future bingo parlor. But this orchestra doesn’t have a first chair violinist or a French horn section. It’s comprised of immigrants from all over the world, who play their native instruments and sing in their own languages.

The film follows orchestra conductor Mario Tronco who doggedly searched for some new Italians to take part in this social experiment. His mission was hard, according to the film, because of a rising anti-immigration sentiment in the country and people just weren’t sure what to make of a project that would have, say, an upright bass player alongside a singer/oud player from Tunisia and a cellist from Hungary.

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The most fascinating part of the documentary shows how musicians originally from places like India, Tunisia, Brazil, Cuba, Hungary, Ecuador, Senegal and even Italy come together and turn cacophony into harmony. They crossed cultural, religious and language divides to find common ground in music. And what a beautiful common ground they found.

Now while the documentary could have been shorter - it lacked the drama of captivating documentaries like Super Size Me or Spellbound. But what should have been longer were scenes of musicians simply playing. When we finally see the Orchestra play their first song in front of a live audience, it's a beautiful, foot-stomping, hand-clapping moment. Tronco and the orchestra take the "world music" category to a whole new level.

Immediately following the film screening on Thursday, Egyptian audience members were treated to an amazing performance by a 10-person touring section of the Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio. We didn't understand a word they were singing onstage, and we couldn't identify some of the instruments played, but it was one of the most energizing and captivating performances we've seen in a long, long time.

Bravissimo!

Check out music samples here.

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Photo by Francisco Arcaute