Jardim Gramacho, outside of Rio, is the world’s largest landfill. In a new documentary called Waste Land, Vik Muniz, a Brazilian-born, Brooklyn-based artist, returns to create portraits, made from the trash itself, of the so-called “catadores” who work there.
It looks like an interesting peek at a subculture you’re not likely to be exposed to otherwise, a helpful reminder that we’re creating incredible volumes of trash, and a nice example of the redemptive power of art.
Filmed over nearly three years, WASTE LAND follows 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, COUNTDOWN TO ZERO) has great access to the entire process and, in the end, offers stirring evidence of the transformative power of art and the alchemy of the human spirit.