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||IMDB Rating: 7.9/10 from 7,005 votes
||Release: 21 January 2011 (Brazil) /
||Genre: Documentary, Foreign
||Director: Lucy Walker,
||Stars: Vik Muniz
||Synopsis: An uplifting feature documentary highlighting the transformative power of art and the beauty of the human spirit. Top-selling contemporary artist Vik Muniz takes us on an emotional journey from Jardim Gramacho, the world's largest landfill on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, to the heights of international art stardom. Vik collaborates with the brilliant catadores, pickers of recyclable materials, true Shakespearean characters who live and work in the garbage quoting Machiavelli and showing us how to recycle ourselves. Written by Anonymous
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Following in the path of Edvard Munch who said, "I will paint living
people who breathe and feel and suffer and love," artist Vik Muniz
travels from his studio in Brooklyn to Rio de Janeiro to "give back" to
the people of Brazil where he was born and raised. In Lucy Walker's
(Countdown to Zero) inspiring documentary, Waste Land, winner of the
Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary at the Sundance Film
Festival, we are taken inside the squalid landfill known as Jardim
Gramacho on the outskirts of Rio to see the largest garbage dump in the
world where 7,000 tons of Rio's trash is deposited every day. The film
is seen through the eyes of the "pickers," called catadores who live
and work in this squalid environment, eking out a living of $20-25 U.S.
The catadores, who number in the thousands, work under burning hot sun
and overpowering odors collecting and selling recyclable materials such
as bottles, plastic, and metal to wholesalers and middlemen who turn
them into such resalable items as buckets or bumpers for automobiles.
Vic Muniz' plan is to select and paint a group of six catadores to pose
as photographic subjects that will mimic such classic paintings as "The
Death of Marat" by Jacques-Louis David. Money from sales of the
resulting art will go to the pickers association for the benefit of the
workers. The project included Tiao, the leader of ACAMJG (Association
of Collectors of the Metropolitan Landfill of Jardim Gramacho) who went
on a hunger strike to dramatize the conditions of the pickers and built
an organization that helped create a skills-training center and a
medical clinic for the workers.
There was also Zumbi, a member of the association, who began a library
from his home from books that had been discarded, Irma, a cook who
makes stews and roasts from edible meat to feed the workers, Suelem, an
18-year old girl who has been working in the garbage dump since she was
only seven years old, and Valter, an elderly man who entertains with
stories and songs and who decides to participate because he believes
that "it will raise awareness of all us pickers." Once the initial
photographs are made, Muniz projects an enlarged version of each photo
onto the floor of his studio and hires the pickers to add refuse from
the landfill onto the canvas, photographing the result from overhead.
This then becomes the finished art work, ready to be exhibited at
auctions and museums around the world with the pickers traveling to
such cities as London and New York, the first time they have ever left
Waste Land is not only a biography of an artist, but a look at the
artist in the context of the community in which his art is created.
Muniz reveals the courage and resilience of the people in spite of
their grinding poverty and depressing environment. Many are former
middle class residents of the suburbs who chose the life of the picker
rather than becoming prostitutes or drug dealers and are happy with
their choice. Though Muniz's goal was, "to be able to change the lives
of a group of people with the same material that they deal with every
day," he never dreamed that his work would impact the lives of the
people so dramatically.
Through his efforts, many of the residents who worked for him have
changed their life and either reconciled with their families or gone on
to more rewarding jobs. Modernization has also begun to take shape at
Gramacho. A recycling plant has been built and the workers have been
separated into categories for more efficient organization. Though
admittedly just a beginning, Muniz has demonstrated that the power of
art is available to all people regardless of their circumstances,
allowing them to experience their inner beauty and believe in
themselves in a new way. Not succumbing to the temptations of
melodramatic excess, Waste Land has been shortlisted for an Oscar for
Best Documentary and fully deserves to be among the finalists.
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