I became interested in documenting how people are helping youth to avoid or escape gang life using classical music which was a surprising and novel idea to me, considering that most young people don’t know this kind of music, and when they do they don’t enjoy it.

After spending time in El Salvador, I saw how violence eclipses the beauty of this country, which is surrounded by stunning landscape and is mostly populated by generous and harmless citizens.

As I was filming this documentary, I found myself in a new reality where it was strongly discouraged by the authorities to walk around with a camera, even during the day, for my own safety. After convincing them of the importance of shooting outdoor footage, I had a personal guard with a large shotgun assigned to escort me.

That is everyday life in El Salvador. For everyone.

However, after filming the students and teachers I also realized that this situation can definitely change as long as programs such as El Sistema exist.

History has proven that the so-called war on drugs and the use of violence to eradicate gangs and crime in general have not only failed, but they made the problem worse. 

Giving a child or a teenager hope, a goal, and a community will definitely change their life for the better, regardless of whether or not they will become musicians. Without this opportunity, these kids would look for a surrogate family and might end up finding it in a gang in order to fill the void.

Furthermore, this is beneficial for the economy: in El Salvador, the world bank found a 34% reduction in violence among youth that were studying music in this country. Another statistic states that for every dollar spent on violence prevention in programs such as music, $7 are saved due to a decrease in incarcerations.

I grew up in a not very good neighborhood in Italy. As a teenager I used to spend time with the wrong people. I was lucky enough to have amazing and patient parents who helped me to grow up with values and structure. In El Salvador, most families consist of a mother and children, as many fathers leave when the children are very young in order to look for a job in the States or elsewhere and never return. Or even worse, many young fathers leave their family for gang life. The mothers are too busy to make ends meet and the children are very vulnerable and in need of a surrogate family; these programs can provide the community that they are looking for.

Emanuele Michetti, writer, director