Wasteland (2010) on DVD and PBS
Ever look at a piece of alleged art and think, “That’s garbage”? Ever flip open a garbage can and think, “Hmmmm…that’s got potential”? Vik Muniz is a Brazilian-born artist who has long combined everyday or “found” objects in his photography. He travelled from his home in the United States to Rio de Janeiro’s largest garbage dump to create “portraits” of people who lived and worked there—portraits made from recyclable materials.
The dump, Jardim Gramacho, is home to at least 3000 and as many as 5000 people. 15,000 derive their income from the dump; some families have been working there for three generations. Many of the workers began as children. Muniz photographed some of the “catadores” (“pickers”) who make their living separating out recyclable waste, and recreated them on a grand scale. The pickers themselves arranged refuse to create the portraits, and the results are remarkable. They were then photographed, and auctioned off (with 100% of the proceeds going to the pickers’ association) and exhibited in museums.
Filmmaker Lucy Walker chronicles the project from inception to exhibition in her documentary, Wasteland, and provides intimate portraits of the people involved. Muniz and his associates had to consider the ethics of changing peoples’ lives only to return them to the dump, and one of their discussions is included in the film. Viewers will visit the world’s largest landfill, and meet the people who find dignity in the work they do there. Wasteland is a fascinating look into the lives of these people and the art they produced, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary.
New Video released Wasteland on DVD and digital March 15; its television premiere will be Tuesday, April 19, 2011 (check local listings), on Independent Lens (PBS). The DVD includes two exclusive features: “Beyond Gramacho” and “An Untold Story.”