Waste Land



Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 100% · 71 reviews
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 90%
IMDb Rating 7.8/10 10 9282 9.3K

Plot summary

An uplifting feature documentary highlighting the transformative power of art and the beauty of the human spirit. Top-selling contemporary artist Vik Muniz takes us on an emotional journey from Jardim Gramacho, the world's largest landfill on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, to the heights of international art stardom. Vik collaborates with the brilliant catadores, pickers of recyclable materials, true Shakespearean characters who live and work in the garbage quoting Machiavelli and showing us how to recycle ourselves.

August 04, 2023 at 02:23 AM


Lucy Walker

Top cast

915.94 MB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
1 hr 39 min
P/S ...

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by claudio_carvalho 9 / 10

A Must See Uplifting Documentary

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")

Reviewed by howard.schumann 10 / 10

An inspiring documentary

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.

Reviewed by bandw 9 / 10

Stick with it to the end

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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