Waste Land is a documentary about Jardim Gramacho, the worlds largest landfill. Found just outside of Rio de Janeiro, this landfill manages a staggering amount of endless rubbish from a number of very vibrant and extremely diverse local suburbs. From the air Jardim Gramacho is a very stunning and disturbing scene. Thousands of workers clamour over gigantic hills of refuse in search of recyclable material. Regardless of weather or time of the day, the rubbish continues to flow and the workers continue to scavenge.
Its dirty, disgusting and unthinkable.
For Vik Muniz, one of Brazil’s most successful international artists, its become the focus of a project. A project to enable the residents of Rio de Janerio’s poorest areas to have a voice, to share parts of their lives. After spending years of “having nothing and wanting everything” he has become a man who “has everything and wants nothing”. His motivation is to hopefully offer a hand up for his fellow country men, such as the one afforded to him in his youth.
However the journey that transpires is not so much one of rescue, but of self discovery. As Vik and his crew take a closer look, and engage with the workers (Catadore’s or pickers as they like to be called), they realise that they are a strong, proud and supportive community striving to make their future better. These pickers have chosen a life on the rubbish over a life of drugs and prostitution. “An Honest living.”
As the project takes shape each of the key characters story is told, revealing their inner strength and beauty. These stories will remain with you long after the closing credits. While they maybe living in abject squalor, their wisdom and courage is beyond anything that the richest in the world could muster. To say this aspect of the film is humbling is somewhat of an understatement.
On face value the film doesn’t appear to offer much from its blurb, sitting in the pages of the New Zealand Film Festival booklet. But believe me when i say that this documentary will challenge your very beliefs around poverty in a developing country. This film will remain in my memory for a very long time, and has introduced me to a story that i will be exploring a lot more.
Reviewed by: Urbankiwi
The thing I liked about Waste Land was Vik Muniz’s attitude. He could have just gone down and visited, snapped a few shots, flown back to America and created something to sale. Instead he took his time visiting the landfill. He took his time talking to the people that work there, the people that live there and the people who are trying to help them. Then after talking, trying to understand, he moved in and set up his studio, right there, amongst the people, amongst the rubbish.
But that wasn’t enough for Vik. He made sure that the subjects of his latest series of creations were the ones helping him create. He turned them into artists as well as subjects. Together they created something spectacular.
But it wasn’t just about making art, Vik wanted his art to mean something, and in doing what he did, he gave the people involved something that no one else ever had; a sense of worth, the knowledge and empowerment that they could achieve anything.
This single act of love changed everyone it touched, and proved that when you take the step to help just one person, you create the ability to change many lives.
Waste Land is certainly in the running for film of the year in my opinion, and certainly is the best film I’ve seen at this year’s New Zealand Film Festival so far.