“I have always been interested in garbage: What it says about us. What in there embarrasses us, and what we can’t bear to part with. Where it goes and how much of it there is. How it endures. What it might be like to work with it every day. I read about one woman’s crusade to show her appreciation for all the sanitation workers in New York by hugging each of them, and I applauded the sentiment … and yet … there had to be some other way for me to show my appreciation.”
Lucy Walker, January 2010
Filmed over nearly three years, WASTE LAND follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home base in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world’s largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.
There he photographs an eclectic band of “catadores” — self-designated pickers of recyclable materials. Muniz’s initial objective was to “paint” the catadores with garbage.
However, his collaboration with these inspiring characters as they recreate photographic images of themselves out of garbage reveals both the dignity and despair of the catadores as they begin to re-imagine their lives.
Director Lucy Walker (DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND, BLINDSIGHT and COUNTDOWN TO ZERO) and co-directors João Jardim and Karen Harley have great access to the entire process and, in the end, offer stirring evidence of the transformative power of art and the alchemy of the human spirit.