Here’s a documentary that put a smile on my face.

“The Last Repair Shop” is about the people who work for the Los Angeles Unified School District, which provides musical instruments for students who can’t afford them to play in class and practice with at home. LA is one of the only districts in the US that still offers this service — which has been available since 1959 — and certainly the largest.

The employees, who have all been there a long time, work in a warehouse where, from the outside, you wouldn’t know about the remarkable restorations they perform daily. Thanks to directors Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers, we get to meet these devoted craftspeople who keep over 80,000 student instruments in good repair.

Bowers, who learned to play piano in a Los Angeles public school and went on to study at Juilliard, says:

When I stepped inside the Los Angeles Unified School District’s central instrument shop four years ago, I was surrounded by incredible cinematic imagery: cascading ribbons of sawdust, blazing torches soldering brass, the grand choreography of the thousands of tiny pieces that magically coalesce inside a piano. I expected that. But what I didn’t expect was that every one of the technicians’ life stories would break my heart and put it back together again.

Including Steve Bagmanyan’s, the man who tuned my middle and elementary schools’ piano.

Interspersed with scenes of the employees and their personal stories are several LAUSD students explaining what the schools’ music programs have meant to them.

With a runtime of 39 minutes, “The Last Repair Shop” is a lovingly made film which will likely be among the 2024 Oscar nominees for Best Documentary Short Subject when they’re announced next week. It will certainly be on one of my year-end Best Of lists. I give it a 9 out of 10.

You can watch it right here…