Waste Land Review

A 2010 documentary directed by Lucy Walker, Waste Land, documents Vic Muniz’s incredible gift of turning recyclable material into art. The Brazilian native incorporates everyday objects into his photographic process to create beautiful images.The New York-based artist makes pictures from unlikely materials including dirt, diamonds, sugar, wire, string..etc.

He wanted to change the lives of a group of people by using the materials that they work with by creating something beautiful. In this documentary, the contemporary modern artist goes to Rio De Janeiro for his next project.  He said in the documentary that “Art can change people” but he wanted to be certain if it really can be done and what would be the effect of this change.

The film portrays the lives of the garbage pickers, and focuses on some of the workers that Vic interacts with and who later become the focus of his art.  The workers pick out recyclable material from garbage and with Vik’s direction, they use the material to create large-scale portraits.

My first initial comment was I couldn’t imagine what it we be like to see such a large garbage landfill in person. As the film progressed I saw how important it was to remember that everyone plays a part in society and the so-called “lower class” like the people working in these conditions deserve appreciation. These people are from poor to lower middle class stature, but they were not ashamed of being poor. They recognize their situation and highlight that they might be poor but they’re dignified.

I loved seeing how literature effects people’s lives and plays a part. Tião Santos, one of the workers, showed great interest in literature. When he said that he found Machiavelli’s The Prince in the mix of garbage, I was shocked that people throw out such great influential novels. Tião and other pickers were able to quote Machiavelli, Marat and Nietzsche. The discarded books from the trash are collected by Tião and others, in the hopes of establishing free libraries in their poor neighborhoods.

I love watching documentaries because they tell stories of real life, real people, real situations. You see a different side of all kinds of people.  One of the workers highlighted that this project will raise awareness of the pickers, and it surely did. The landfill was closed a short while after the documentary; Vik raised over $300,000 from the project’s prints which was all given to the worker’s association.

I rate this uplifting documentary 9.5/10

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