Posted by: rkpm89 | March 1, 2010

Review: ‘Waste Land’

Just outside Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro is Jardim Gramacho, the largest landfill in the world, where catadores, or pickers, climb through overwhelming heaps of rubble to find recyclable materials to sell.

In Lucy Walker’s Waste Land, Walker and Brazilian contemporary artist Vik Muniz simultaneously expose the lives of the pickers through their own very different, but equally effective, art forms.

The film begins in Brooklyn, New York, with Muniz planning for a trip to Jardim Gramacho, but it’s not until he spends his first day in the landfill that one realizes the importance of his project.

Muniz and his assistant, as well as the audience, become enamored with each picker’s story.

One is Isis, a woman whose son died when he was 3 and whose ex-husband and daughter will no longer see or speak to her.

There’s also Tião, who formed an association of pickers called ACAMJG, and dedicated himself to starting a library for them.

Walker chronicles Muniz’s labor-intensive project, which employs the pickers. With Muniz’s guidance, the pickers fill in the shadows and lines of their giant-sized portraits with recycled material such as bottle caps and plastic bottles on the floor of Muniz’s workspace.

Once each portrait is completed, Muinz captures their photos for reproduction.

It became apparent how important the project was especially after Sunday’s screening at the Blue Note, when Walker told the audience Muniz probably wouldn’t have done the project without the film.

From the introduction of the pickers to their emotional journey to complete Muniz’s exhibit, Walker captures the story of how a once underprivileged, successful artist can impact the lives of the people could have become.

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