Sunday, March 27, 2011

Review: "Waste Land" Finds Treasure in Trash

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 27 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux

Waste Land (2010)
Running time: 99 minutes (1 hour, 39 minutes)
DIRECTORS: Lucy Walker with Karen Harley and João Jardim
PRODUCERS: Angus Aynsley and Hank Levine
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ernesto Herrmann and Dudu Miranda with Heloísa Passos (co-D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Pedro Kos
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Vik Muniz, Fabio, and Tíao Santos

Waste Land is an Oscar-nominated documentary that follows an art project initiated by Brazilian contemporary modern artist, Vik Muniz. Waste Land documents the two years in which Muniz joined forces with the “catadores,” the garbage pickers working at Jardim Gramacho. Gramacho is one of the world’s largest landfills, and it serves Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. These pickers dig in the garbage and refuse to find recyclable material, a job for which they are paid $20 to $25 per day.

Muniz guided the pickers in a process in which they used recyclable materials from Gramacho to create large-scale portraits of themselves. These portraits were sold at art auctions in London and were also exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in São Paulo. Along the way, Waste Land portrays the lives of the garbage pickers and their working conditions.

Waste Land is one of those pure documentaries in which the director (and, in this case, co-directors) point the camera, stand back, and let the magic happen. In that way, something is documented and the subject comes to life. The film depicts Vik Muniz as such an open-hearted and warm individual, so the pickers are drawn to talk to him. Muniz is so encouraging that when he reveals the portraits to his collaborators, the viewer will likely feel the joyful emotions of the pickers.

Best of all is how the film allows the pickers to slowly bring the viewer into their personal lives. Some even open up about their histories and personal tragedies, and the stories are poignant, sad, inspirational, and even beautiful. Waste Land reveals how connected we are and how much more we can be. It says that we can change each other’s lives, and that isn’t always a bad thing. Waste Land is one of the best films you will see all year.

8 of 10

2011 Academy Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Documentary, Features” (Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley)


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