It’s the old story of the haves and the have-nots, but the way it’s told and the surprising twists and turns are owed as much to Walker’s skillful filmmaking as to the people she portrays. What begins as a documentary about the artist Vik Muniz, who turns materials found in nature into art, ends as a story of human dignity, hope, and the power of art to foster both without turning into politics.
For his newest project, Muniz returns to his native Brazil and begins to make contact with the garbage collectors on a huge Rio de Janeiro landfill. They say it’s better than drugs or prostitution, but their dirty and dangerous job of harvesting (and eating) what falls off the garbage trucks is truly the end of the line, that is, until Muniz begins to turn his photographs into huge junk mosaics built from the waste. Art and social project slowly become intertwined as the garbage collectors begin to organize themselves as workers and start becoming artists in their own way.
Waste Land takes head-on the issues – both moral and ethical – that emerge when the privileged attempt to help the underprivileged. Particularly moving are the moments that might otherwise have been rendered as kitsch but instead powerfully show the waste collectors’ immense pride of creation.
WASTE LAND | Directed by Lucy Walker (Brazil, UK 2010) Documentary. Opens May 26