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An inspiring documentary
howard.schumann4 December 2010
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. a day.

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 Gramacho.

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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A Must See Uplifting Documentary
claudio_carvalho15 August 2011
The Brazilian artist Vik Muniz rooted in New York decides to make the difference and travels to Jardim Gramacho, the largest landfill of the world in the outskirt of Rio de Janeiro, with the intention to help the pickers to improve their lives using his art. Vik recalls an event when he was very poor and lived in Brazil. He tried to break up a fight between two men, and he was shot when he was walking to his car. Later the shooter gave him some money that allowed Vik to travel to USA.

Vik and his friend Fábio spend two years in Jardim Gramacho and get closer to a group of pickers of recyclable materials and takes pictures of them. He uses his talent to make art using recyclable material and photographs the results. Then he travels to London and sells one of the portraits in an auction. With the money, the pickers buy a truck, equipment and build a leaning center and a library. The pickers that worked with him leans how to improve their lives and leave Jardim Gramacho.

"Waste Land" is a must see uplifting documentary that shows another side of Rio de Janeiro unusual in the cinema: the lives of people that earn their lives honestly working in the greatest landfill of the world and how they could improve their lives with social investment.

Vik Muniz gives a lesson to our corrupt politicians that embezzle money that are dedicated to people of the lower classes and shows how it is possible to improve lives using the money properly. His humanitarian work should be publicized worldwide and specially in my country. Maybe in the future, the president and politicians would be outraged not with handcuffed corrupts but with the damage that corruption causes to our people. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): "Lixo Extraordinário" ("Extraordinary Garbage")
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Recycling Yourself
Chrysanthepop15 March 2011
I had only heard little about 'Waste Land' and didn't know what to expect other than be introduced to some artworks by Vik Muniz. Also the concept of making art from garbage and involving the garbage pickers who work at the dumpsite got me curious. What I got from this film in the end was far more than what I expected. The camera follows Muniz to the world's largest waste land in Rio de Janeiro. One by one the viewer is introduced to some of the people who work there while Muniz proposes his project to them. The people, who are considered by many, to be of the lowest of classes, are portrayed beautifully as high spirited people, in this film. Just like any other common working human being, the pickers work hard to provide for their families and many of them are quite proud of what they do . There is also a wonderful sense of unity. What Muniz offers them is to be a part of something big, to dream again. It's a sight to behold, when the workers' faces light up as they realize they are becoming/ have become a part of something unique, beautiful and important. These are three adjectives that I'd additionally use to describe this inspiring, insightful and unique gem.
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Art helps recycle lives!
jm@downtownreel.com1 November 2010
This film is a remarkable surprise! A clever, concerned, screen-grab of homeless lives that gives an ounce hope where one would least expect it. Internationally acclaimed artist, Vik Muniz, is our guide on a journey through garbage, guts, and glamor. With a smile on his face that belies many of the bleak images he shares, he outlines what is, perhaps, an early chapter in the "ecological medical journal" that must be written to save our planet. The characters in Waste Land by far overwhelm this 'preachy' review, and are 1,000 times warmer, to boot -- go see it before it's gone -- to NETFLIX -- As proceeds from your ticket save lives!
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Not a waste to watch
jdesando8 March 2011
Vic Muniz's art has never been as influential as when he decided to spend 2 years at the world's largest landfill outside of Rio. The catadores or pickers became his subjects, a ragtag group of Shakespearean types who love what they do for a living, making something out of someone else's nothing. Waste land is the title for this engrossing documentary about art as few have experienced it till now.

Making a living is what they made until Muniz changed the way they looked a recyclables. He bonded the artifacts with the humans and created memorable portraits of the pickers. A show in London, which they attended, became a catalyst for change in their lives and in the lives of spectators who had no idea Rio's garbage had become Rio's recyclables under the hands of these professional pickers.

Muniz makes sure no one condescends, no one feels sorry for his subjects, some of whom have never known anything but the landfill and others who have chosen it rather than deal drugs or prostitute themselves. Waste Land is as dignified a story about the potential of the poor class to rise out of its garbage and transform it into art and a better life. For this reason, Muniz can stand with the great humanitarians like Albert Schwitzer and Mother Theresa.
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Stick with it to the end
bandw28 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The first part of this movie has modern Brazilian artist Vik Muniz (based in New York) visiting Jardim Gramacho, one of the world's largest garbage dumps, near Rio de Janeiro. We are introduced to some of the "pickers" who sort through the giant mountains of trash for recyclable materials. One of the messages of the movie for me was to see that the pickers, while living tough lives, are pretty normal people, many with families. Most of them are quite philosophical about their jobs, feeling that they are doing a useful and needed service and getting paid on the order of $20 a day. This first part of the film disabuses you of any stereotypes you may have of the people working in the dump.

About a third of the way in it looked to me like this was going to be more of the same, seeing Muniz photograph more workers and talking with them. That was interesting enough, but if that was all that was going to happen, I was on the verge of bailing out. But then I found out what Muniz was really trying to do, which was to create an art work. He projected his photos onto the floor of a large hall, enlarged to a size of about 100 feet by 100 feet. Then he had the subjects of the photos bring in materials from the dump and arrange them artistically around the photo outlines on the floor. The final product was a photo of the arrangements on the floor. Seeing how the people reacted to their artistic efforts was when I became truly taken in. From there the movie held many surprises.

Muniz pledged to contribute all monies from the art works resulting from this project ($250,000 at the time of filming) to the improvement of the lives of the pickers. The effect that the experience of working on this project had on the pickers was most interesting. It changed their lives, and the life of Muniz as well--to his surprise. I particularly liked the part where Muniz visits his childhood home in São Paulo and notes that, absent an accident in his youth that had fortuitous consequences, he could easily picture himself as having wound up among the pickers, instead of being a financially successful New York artist. There was an engaging dialog between Muniz and his wife as to whether lives had been changed for the better.

The photography often reveals an artist's eye and there is is some original music by Moby that enhances the experience.

I don't think I have ever seen a better example of the trans-formative power of art. This film, that I thought was going to be a downer, turned out to be inspiring.
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Art and lives that you wouldn't expect
rgcustomer8 November 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Humans today are defined by the trash we produce. No other population that has ever lived here has produced the sheer volume of trash that we have done, in our disposable societies. What are we throwing away? What happens to it? I think we all sort of know. We just don't like to admit it.

This is a documentary about Brazilian artist Vik Muniz, successful in the USA, returning to Brazil, north of the city of Rio de Janeiro. In particular, he travels to the world's largest landfill of the day, Jardim Gramacho, where numerous people spent years of their lives digging through the trash for valuable recyclable materials, and a meal. Yes, it's like that. (Fortunately this film isn't about electronic waste...)

But these are not people beaten-down by their position. They pride themselves on the value of their work. As one man says, they recycle everything we miss, because "99 is not 100". We are in a trash crisis and landfills must grow as slowly as possible. Some of the women say they regard the work as honest, in comparison with prostitution. I was surprised they used the word "honest" as opposed to "safe" or "clean".

We're not fooled that these people are pleased about things. But they have self-respect and a sense of humour.

Vik's art apparently involves photographs of objects usually not considered artistic, but arranged in artistic ways. He continues this form at Jardim Gramacho, directing the creation of portraits of the surprisingly educated workers he meets living there. (Books arrive, like everything else, in the trash, affording the pickers opportunities to self-educate.) The very large portraits are created on a floor using the materials Vik's subjects work with, mostly various forms of recyclable plastic. These are then photographed and shrunk down to something around 2' x 3'.

The film could get a bit wobbly when Vik's team realizes that the expectations of his subjects may be higher than he can deliver. They want their lives improved. But it works out. Vik takes his subjects to see their plastic-portrait-photos exhibited and sold for eye-popping amounts of money. It's refreshing to see that even as Vik understands how to manipulate and respect the art world, he also understands how ludicrous it is. I'm not sure what percentage went to the subjects, but they were able to use the money to better their lives in various ways, and to better the whole community of trash pickers (who prefer "recyclable material pickers" because they don't keep the trash). Copies of the photos are then returned to the original subjects, for display in their own homes.

You think I just spoiled it right? (But I did warn you). Still, it really has to be seen to be believed and understood. These are wonderful people, in unpleasant circumstances that are more common, and easier to fall into, than we'd like to admit.
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Watch as the people and landscape transform
maddynicholls13 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I loved this film for its beauty.

Waste Land helped build my understanding and appreciation of modern art from almost zero aside from MIT's Walter Lewin lecture on Modern Art - who is adamant that modern art is supposed to be "ugly" and change the way one looks at things. Vic Muniz, the artist in the film takes this further by explaining how to look at art: stand back to get the idea, get closer to look at the materials and detail the artist uses.

Vic uses the same technique to get to know the landscape and the subjects of his film first looking at them from aerial photos/plane and then on the ground. Astonishing how this transforms the subjects and landscape from a rubbish tip to beautiful and inspiring people and works of art. His subjects were totally in tune and connected with their environment in the landfill.

By the end of the film even Vic's wonderful, tasteful, designer home in NY looked like a slightly more orderly version of his subject's favelas.
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top art is no garbage matter
dromasca11 September 2011
In one of the several memorable sequences in 'Waste Land' world famous artist Vik Muniz teaches his audiences about looking at art in a museum. People tend, he tells them, to get closer to the painting, then farther, then closer, then farther again, several times. When they are far away they get the overall idea of the art work. When they get close they try to understand how it is made. From far they see the idea. From close they see the matter.

The great idea of the documentary directed by Lucy Walker is to describe the process of creation in which the subjects are the Brazilian garbage pickers, called 'catadores' while the matter is the recyclable materials extracted from the huge garbage ground called 'Jardim Gramacho', which gathers most of the waste of the huge metropolis of Rio de Janeiro. However this is only the inner circle of this smart film, as the first part describes the search that triggers the project in which the artist explores the space of the big garbage dump. At first it looks like one of its work, a square on the map, getting closer men seem to be visible at the dimensions of ants, then zooming in we discover a full human landscape composed of people who may be working physically in garbage but they do it with pride and dignity and a sense of purpose of their work and its benefits for the overall good of the community. The human dimensions of the characters discovered by Muniz are best material on which relies the quality of his art and the quality of the film director Walker made about the process of creating his art.

'Waste Land' is beautifully filmed, the characters are well chosen, and one can say that garbage never looked so beautiful and full of colors and the garbage people never looked so clean and sexy as in this film. There is one more ethical question that needs to be asked about the realization of this documentary. By picking a few of the people of 'Jardim Gramacho' and making them for a few months part of the artistic creation process, Muniz, Walker and their teams took them out of the social medium they were living in and exposed them not only to art, to better work conditions, but also to the broader world living at a very different pace, social relations and living standards. Even as the money raised from the selling of the works returned to the people involved and to the social activities in the 'garbage garden' I could not ask whether the human involved will be able to get back to their previous work, or even as they use some of the cash earned for the participation in the project will they be able to overcome the short glimpse they witnessed of the world of glamor of art trade? Although Walker's documentary tried to give a rather positive answer to this question I could not avoid a slight suspicion of manipulation, or at least of a self-righteous perspective of the facts as they were presented. But maybe I am just over-concerned, or maybe Muniz and Walker are right in their approach, and the path to help the under-privileged of this world starts not with 99 or 100 of the lucky ones enrolling to help, but with the first of the 100.
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A simply wonderful documentary
nesfilmreviews3 February 2013
An moving documentary highlighting the transformative power of art, and the beauty of the human spirit. Top-selling contemporary artist Vik Muniz rooted in New York decides to give back to a community where he was born and raised. He travels to Jardim Gramacho, the largest landfill in the world on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. With the intention to help the pickers to improve their lives using his art, what starts as an introduction to the devastating poverty and lack of infrastructure in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, begins to transform into a story of unrelenting spirit, strength, and inspiration. Perhaps director Lucy Walker initially intended to make the film about Muniz. If so, her subject led her to a better one; as he returns to Rio to photograph pickers for a series of portraits, she begins to focus on their lives. We see where they live, we meet their families, we hear their stories, we learn of the society and economy they have constructed around Jardim Gramacho, the "Garbage Garden." 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 Gramacho. (Heavily debated decision and the possible ramifications.) Life is unpredictable that way. "Waste Land" is a testament that things can go from good to bad in an instant. But they can also improve just as quickly. A social documentary based around a self reliant community of people disregarded and largely ignored, who find unrealized beauty in their everyday work, modern art, and in themselves. I can never again put out my recycling bin without giving thought to how much more this film communicates than just that.
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Recycle of life
highclark13 August 2011
It's hard to not be moved by this film. Although the film takes about an hour to get going, once the movie gets its footing you will be mesmerized by how transformative creativity can be for the soul. You want a happy ending for everyone involved, you want everyone to leave their metallic shacks to live in houses with plumbing, you want in essence a perfect world...no warts and all.

However, only Hollywood scripts give birth to such wild fantasy and this film is real and by its own measure, the happiness we see, while real, may only be fleeting.

Waste Land is an excellent film.
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carolinephillips7 March 2012
I have developed a love for films and documentaries coming out of Brazil, particularly with Elite Squad 1 and 2, films that completely blow my mind. I therefore had high hopes for this documentary, especially as it had a 7.8 on IMDb.

The documentary starts off well, that is for the first 5 minutes, then what you begin to experience is pure narcissism. The recycling story is an interesting one and the lives the pickers lead is one that could have been explored on a deeper level that would have made for a great documentary. Instead this is all about one over-inflated ego promoting himself with final products unable to live up to expectations. This documentary is only worth watching to see the pickers, the rest is a waste of time.
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Waste Land
lasttimeisaw8 July 2012
A documentary about the international acclaimed Brazilian artist Vik Muniz, who reconstructs photos using garbage materials from Jardim Gramacho, the world's largest landfill in Rio de Janeiro, and with the help of the pickers who work and dwell there. An both artistically tantalizing and sociologically empathizing body of work.

This film has indeed reminded me that it is the one should have used the 4D gimmick which brazenly hyped by SPY KIDS: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD IN 4D (2011). With a bit odor touch, it could enhance more on the turmoil what we are watching in the landfill, and it is an extraordinary case that the sense of smell could actually have played a more essential role in the film genre.

Anyway, the environment-concerned stress has never been under the spotlight here, being a documentary about art and garbage pickers, one possible pitfall is the condescending inclination, but blithely it is not the case for this film, instead it spends most of time on the individual pickers who are involved in making this project, it captures many poignant moments behind their own stories. No doubt, Vik's work does have a pivotal role of altering the pickers lives, but the film does not overwhelmingly hinge on the process of making those artworks, and which perfectly encapsulates a more sublimated obligation in additional to a general aesthetic percipient, to change the world in a better way, and Vik and his team has done it, a tenacious and awe-inspiring job.

Apart from the riveting story, there are several panning scenes of the landfill are astonishing, our life is linking with garbages everyday, but most of us act like they are thoroughly vanishing from the earth after when they are being discarded in the dustbins. After watching this film, we might be coerced to face some soiled corner of our life which we are selectively and subjectively ignoring, and starts with the most basic one: behave yourself.
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A masterpiece!
pankina-anna30 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
In this uplifting documentary film a contemporary American artist Vik Muniz goes on a life-changing journey back to his homeland, Brazil. Together with his film crew he travels to Rio de Janeiro to realize another massive art project of his. However, to our surprise, instead of showing us the city that we all know, with its beautiful sandy shores, outstanding scenery and the breathtaking view on the statue of Jesus, he takes us to Jardim Gramacho, the world's largest landfill located just on the outskirts of Rio.

Vik's primary goal during this trip is to try to give back to the society he grew up in, to the people who come from the same background he once did. Those people are "catadores" or "the pickers". They spend every day working on this huge dump picking through the mountains of garbage in order to sort out the recyclable materials, without any masks or special equipment available. Those people come from the lowest poor class, choosing this job as a preferred option to begging or prostitution.

Vik comes to Jardim Gramacho and starts taking pictures of the pickers, men and women. Under his supervision and guidance those pictures are remade by the pickers themselves from the collected waste materials found on the landfill. Together they create massive video installations which get later on sold all over the world at the best auction houses. All the money from the art pieces goes to the pickers to help them realize their dreams.

During the course of the film you notice how taking part in creation of pieces of art, which at first might have seemed a waste of time to them, transforms the pickers completely. Gradually, they start believing not only in the power of art, but most importantly in themselves. You get constantly amazed by the inner-beauty, cheerfulness and dignity of those people who have been put in such difficult life circumstances, which could easily break anyone.

The movie thus is a triumph of the human spirit and the unity of people, bringing up and beautifully mixing together such serious topics as poverty, environmental problems, education and art. You start to believe that the problem of poverty is actually solvable, mostly with the means of raising awareness, funds and promoting education among those in need. As after all, after being exposed to art the pickers never went back to the landfill, they believed they deserved more and went on to realize their dreams.
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The importance of the documentary is that its subjects and their attitudes are real and that there are still genuinely kind and hardworking people in the world
Likes_Ninjas903 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The title of this documentary is derived from T. S. Eliot's apocalyptic poem The Waste Land, where the world has been polluted by modernity. Director Lucy Walker isn't as bleak about her project because the film has the framework of a simple feel good story. Yet under the surface is anger, hurt and true humanity. It was appreciated through the eyes of artist Vik Muniz who obtained a new perspective on the world. He's extremely wealth and popular but prior to this film he was unsatisfied with his materialist lifestyle. On the edge of Rio de Janeiro is Jardim Gramacho, the world's largest garbage dump. "Catadores" or pickers are people hired by the ACAMJG (Association of Collectors of the Metropolitan Landfill of Jardim Gramacho) to organise the garbage there into recycles so the materials can be sold. Vik initially intended to paint the catadores with rubbish since he is adept in collecting everyday things for his projects. One of his most famous works is called "Sugar Children", where he used sugar from the plantations in St. Kitts to develop images of the children working there. The purpose of this is to retain a tangible connection to his subjects as he constructs the works. It seems to remind him of what he is really illustrating, physically and metaphorically.

This same method surfaced during the Waste Land project. He discovered that beneath the rubbish were real people who suffered and sometimes didn't even know their own situations. Vik's wife commented that some of them are in denial and that taking them out of their environments would potentially disrupt their minds. It was a valid point because many of the people working on the landfill had been there since childhood. They scavenged through the enormous rubbish piles willingly but were smart enough to organise it into piles so it could be sold and recycled efficiently. They showed their colour and intelligence to Vik through some of their quotes like '99 cans is not 100' and 'it's not rubbish because it can be recycled'. His empathy is clearly articulated in the documentary. He said that he used to grow up in poverty and suggested that he could have been working in the landfill. This is what developed his connection on camera and why he chose to make them the focus of the works. He auctioned off the paintings he made of them so that he could use the money to improve their lives. One of the most humorous paintings Vik design was a recreation of Jacques-Louis David's "The Death of Marat" in an old tub.

The class elements of Waste Land are its most surprising socio-political concerns. Many of the pickers stated they were frowned upon by people, who were not only wealthy, but well-educated Brazilians too. One of the common responses was that they don't care about being dirty because it was a more honest line of work than the prostitution in the area. The pickers in the film are distinguishing because of their courageous attitude but also because their stories are moving too. One of the women commented that she hated working in the landfill. She described how when her son died his body was wrapped in a plastic bag. Another woman recalled how she saw a baby left in the rubbish, which seemed deeply affecting for her because she had children of her own. The hurt beneath these people, who were so diligent towards a thankless task, gives the film emotional pull.

It is a nice movie because it's about someone who simply wanted to use his own wealth, status and creativity to do better by others. It's very cleanly photographed and one of the most interesting shots is a wide angle of Vik sitting in his quarters, surrounded by all the junk on his wall, showing his isolation. This is just after he said that he was unfulfilled by how materialistic his life became. The only thing wrong with the film is that the occasional Portuguese subtitles are in a white font, which means that in bright areas they are sometimes impossible to read. If it were a Hollywood picture people would call Waste Land sentimental and predictable. Yet the importance of the documentary is that its subjects and their attitudes are real and that there are still genuinely kind and hardworking people in the world. I find that alone extremely refreshing.
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good cause, bad art
captain_dimpf15 October 2011
Is a good cause an excuse to produce bad art? Not in my book. And there is even less reason to make a film about it. It's an entertaining watch, I'll give them that. Beautiful shots of a Brazilian dump teeming with pickers and scavenging birds are best viewed from the comforts of you local independent cinema. The music swells to a heartwarming crescendo when the goodhearted artist takes that poor Brazilian waste picker to London on his first journey into the first world. And the artist, being a true philanthropist, doesn't stop at showing handpicked members of the Brasilan underclass, what his flashy world is like, no he makes sure from the start that the final profits of his pictures will go straight to those poor bastards. While the lucky sod breaks down and weeps as the picture is auctioned for 28000 pounds, Vik Muniz even takes the time to give him a short introduction into modern art.

What makes this so unbearable to watch is the artist's complete lack of irony and, well shall I say humbleness, and the filmmaker can't be too keen on that either. Fairly early in the proceedings Vik and his wife sit in front of the computer screen that depicts Brasilians largest landfill and the artist announces proudly that this is where he is going to live for the next two years, while he, his wife and the audience knows pretty well that he's not going to do anything of that sort. But now we know what Lucy Walker is trying to tell us and we feel cheated. Namely that here we have a man who deeply cares about his fellow citizens, but if he really was the altruistic person that this film tries to makes us believe, he would have been more concerned about the plight of the people and less with portraying himself as this selfless do-gooder. This culminates in the scene when, towards the end - all the money came in already- the artist asks the black underdog if, at the very beginning when this crazy artist showed up on the dump, and told him about his vision of making art out of garbage, if he (the underdog) had realistically believed it would amount to anything, let alone a major show at the National Museum in Rio, the underdog is humbled into sheer awe, when in fact he should have answered: Well, as you had a full camera team with you, to document every step you did, I had an inkling that the whole thing would have an happy ending:' And maybe he even said something like that but it sure as hell got cut out for the final edit, cause although the director wants us to believe otherwise, the whole thing seems staged.
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Should be compulsory viewing for all 'humans'
blrnani24 July 2019
As a film, just a 6, but as a contribution to humanity 10/10 If most people were asked about their concept of the worst job going, I reckon working in a huge garbage dump would be among them. So it is fascinating to see how this film brings out the humanity and dignity of people working in what was at the time the world's biggest garbage dump. Two of the women make a point that what they do is more honest and dignified than prostituting themselves on the street (not to mention prostituting themselves in Congress). And that goes for the drugs trade too. So all they're basically doing is trying to get by, honestly, putting in a day's work for a day's pay. And the film shows very clearly what great dignity there is in that. By the end, for all their human frailties, one comes to respect these people and even feel great affection for them. Well done Vik for helping to give them new perspectives and opportunities - he so clearly appreciates the opportunities he was given and recognises how his life could so easily have taken a different course, if it hadn't been for a bit of good fortune and the helping hands of people who believed in us. This growing trend, especially in some supposedly religious circles, of believing that material success is entirely down to our own brilliance and a sign of God's favour is exteremely dangerous. It tramples all over the true Christian message and we need films like this one to help keep our feet on the ground.
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If you are an artist i recommend this for you
sammmmmm10022 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The documentary Wasteland is about the story of how Vik Muniz discovered the art of recycling. He goes to Brazil where he finds people who are known as pickers. Pickers go to a land fill to go through trash and find valuable things that can be recycled. The landfill is the biggest dump place for trash in the entire country. 100% of Brazil's trash ends up in this land fill but only 70 % of the trash is from Rio, where the landfill is located. Sometimes people will even find dead bodies in the landfill. In the movie there were a variety of pickers who each have their own stories about their life and why they choose to be a picker.

Pickers deserve more honor than they receive. They would rather go through the landfill than sell drugs or get involved with prostitution. There is one young woman who is a picker and has 2 kids. She decides for her life that she doesn't want to be a prostitute. There was a young man who was the most deceiving about the whole idea of being a picker while no one else believed in him he believed in himself. He was very precise and he achieved what he believed in which was a very influential.

The reason why people should watch this is because it's very inspirational and the artwork of what Vik Muniz and the team of pickers did was artistic and innovative. It made it look like it was more than just trash. People who are interested in the art industry should watch this too. Wasteland is the perfect example of a win-win situation.
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Recycling spirit at its zenith
bshljtbaruah809 August 2012
Waste Land is a true classic depicting inner humane values radiating through art forms of exuberance. Vik Muniz's extraordinary artistic zeal spiced with humanity in collaboration with those true aspirations of the characters that the former portrait gives the entire plot a genuinely vibrant touch. It ignites the recycling power of our inner self as it makes us feel the universal human appeal more deeply then ever. It allows us to peep through the vibrant colorful membrane of civilization straight into the lives of those standing at the 'fundamental sphere' of d civilization super structure, coping up with life with whatever means they are provided with....living rather in their own happy times sans any involvement in petty vices of so called "modern civilized society". But still they are human...they have been unable to acquire the taste of life in fullest terms but they still possess that zeal to improvise their life style, at least into another level. Vik Muniz just provided them that platform,standing on which they can at least level up themselves with the other lot of the society. Simply a Masterpiece!!!
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An inspiring and energetic work of art
maltese-stallion2 April 2012
"Waste Land" is a film that I picked up with interest. While the cover-art of the documentary caught my attention, the film itself proved to be much more complex, engaging, and fascinating, than I had originally imagined. A great documentary that captures: a time, place, and the ideology of a social group, working in the background of the ever present, cultural ideology.

Lower class lives are explored in a manner which not only illuminates the struggles that these individuals must go through, on a day to day basis, but also makes it clear that the cultural environment ; or landscape in Brazil, is changing.
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One person can make such a difference
jarp5912 March 2012
It never ceases to amaze me how people can change lives when they decide to. There are so many out there that have the capability and means to make a difference and do so. Vik is an inspiration. He remembers where he grew up and does what he can to help many who hail from the same area in Rio. Lovely, hard-working people that love their families, opportunities and lives. So many of us that struggle with daily grind and complaints need to turn to films such as these to see how fortunate we really are. I know I am, blessed indeed. I truly do care about these folks and was moved by their lives. Everyone has a story and many are not easy to hear, but they put the stories out there. No qualms, no shame. We should all be so open and realize what fortunes we do have.
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Too clean cut - Needed to dish the dirt more.
valleyjohn26 March 2011
Waste Land is the second Oscar nominated documentary i have seen in recent months that revolves around the art word . " Exit through the gift shop" is the other and while that film was more about how ridiculous the art world can be this is a movie that shows how one man and his art can changes a group of peoples lives for the better.

Although this is regarded as a feature film it's far more like a TV documentary. It's quite a positive , heartwarming movie which would normally be a positive thing but i would much prefer it if this documentary had show some balls.

Bearing in mind we are following a group of people who are working in the worlds biggest land fill sight , Director Lucy Walker fails to get across the horrors of sifting through the mountains of garbage. Instead she focuses more on the happiness of the people working there and although that's nice, it mean the film lacks bite.

The art on display is OK but nothing special and sells for stupid money by people with more cash than sense but in this case , the artist , Vik Muniz , gives it back to the people who are the subject of the pictures and thats a good thing.

Waste land is an interesting film to watch if you have a spare ninety minutes but i couldn't help wonder why this was nominated for an Oscar.
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from trash to masterpiece
lee_eisenberg2 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
A previous movie that I saw focusing on a Brazilian landfill is Stephen Daldry's "Trash". Now I've seen Lucy Walker's Academy Award-nominated documentary "Waste Land", focusing on the world's largest landfill and the people who sort through the garbage collecting recyclables to turn into art. All these people have hard lives and continue with this miserable work just to make ends meet.

The landfill got closed in 2012. The documentary got released during Lula's last year in office, right before Dilma Rousseff got elected in a continued rejection of the oligarchy (unfortunately, she got impeached, and Brazil's current president promotes near-fascist views). I just wonder what's become of the movie's subjects now that Jair Bolsonaro encourages police kill at random. These people on the bottom rung of society got to see their work displayed in a museum in London, but can they survive an avowed racist?

Anyway, the documentary should draw attention to the issue of how much garbage humans generate, and how we might find better ways to deal with it. We can't keep producing the mass quantities that we produce each day, especially since we end up dumping a lot of it into the oceans.

Great documentary.
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