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Ben Proudfoot Wins 2nd Oscar In Last Three Years; ‘The Last Repair Shop’ Co-Director Kris Bowers Namechecks John Williams, L.A. Public Schools

Ben Proudfoot Wins 2nd Oscar In Last Three Years; ‘The Last Repair Shop’ Co-Director Kris Bowers Namechecks John Williams, L.A. Public Schools

For the second time in the last three years, the Oscar for Best Documentary Short has been claimed by Ben Proudfoot. The Canadian-born filmmaker and his fellow director Kris Bowers won the Academy Award tonight for their film The Last Repair Shop, the story of craftspeople in Los Angeles who keep 80,000 musical instruments in working order for the city’s public school students. It’s the only big city school system that keeps kids in tune with free bassoons, trombones, sousaphones, cellos, piccolos and every other kind of instrument.

Bowers, a gifted pianist and leading Hollywood composer (Ava DuVernay’s Origin, Green Book, Bob Marley: One Love, The Color Purple) attended L.A. Unified School District schools growing up and developed his talent on pianos maintained by one of the technicians profiled in the film.

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The Last Repair Shop is about the heroes in our schools who often go unsung, unthanked, and unseen,” Bowers said from the stage. Looking up at the rafters where the film protagonists were seated, he said, “Tonight, you are sung, you are thanked, and you are seen.”

Film subject Porché Brinker, and directors Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers back stage during the 96th Annual Academy Awards.
Film subject Porché Brinker, and directors Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers back stage during the 96th Annual Academy Awards.

Proudfoot and Bowers were nominated three years ago for their previous cinematic collaboration, A Concerto Is a Conversation. Proudfoot won the Oscar in 2022 for his short doc The Queen of Basketball, about the late Lucy Harris. His previous victory came during the year that more than half a dozen categories were presented before the live ceremony began; tonight, Proudfoot took the stage not during the pre-show but the show itself. But he left all the talking to Bowers. They were joined on stage by one of the young musicians in the film, violinist Porché Brinker.

“John Williams inspired me to become a composer,” Bowers noted. “He went to L.A. Public Schools. I went to LA Public Schools. This is Porché Brinker. She’s 12 years old. She’s playing violin in L.A. public schools. She looks amazing tonight.”

Bowers continued, “L.A. is one of the last cities in America to give public school students free and freely prepared instruments. We need to fix that because music education isn’t just about creating incredible musicians. It’s about creating incredible humans.”

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The four technicians profiled in the short are Dana Atkinson, who repairs stringed instruments, Duane Michaels (woodwinds), Paty Moreno (brass), and Steve Bagmanyan, who rose from piano tuner to become supervisor of the shop.

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The LAUSD Education Foundation is embarking on a major capital campaign to benefit the musical instrument repair operation documented in the film. The $15 million campaign, revealed last month at an event at Hollywood High School, will invest in the repair workshop’s skilled craftspeople and support staff, and fund “a student apprenticeship program that will build the next generation of instrument technicians.”

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The Last Repair Shop is a production of Searchlight Pictures, L.A. Times Studios, and Proudfoot’s Breakwater Studios.

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