The catadores spend their work days digging through muck and gore, extracting stuff they can recycle, earning $20 to $25 per day to support their families.
Muniz taps several men and women for his art project -- to photograph them, then work with them to convert their images into huge collages created from trash -- which will be exhibited in his New York gallery.
Finding Beauty in Unexpected Places
When Muniz picks his characters, Walker follows them on the job and in off hours, providing us with details that give us insight and make us care deeply about each of them.
Each is strong, personable, dignified and beautiful, and has a good story to tell. There is the older man who's been on the job since he was a child, and who feels he plays an important role in society by recycling stuff that would otherwise clog the rivers and spoil the land, and a younger man who's organized the catadores' union to fight for fair compensation, build libraries and boost morale. An older woman feeds the workers at a small restaurant she's established in the middle of the dump. A single mom explains that she chose garbage picking over prostitution when she came to Rio to earn enough to house, feed and educate the kids she left with her family in the countryside. Another young women confesses that she hates the dump, but will continue working as a catadore until she finds her way to a pleasanter, better paying job.
The Transformative Nature of Art
As we witness the evolution of images from garbage dump to photograph to collage, we see the deepening friendship between Muniz and the workers, and the flowering of everyone's creativity. The process is amazing, inspiring, transformational.
When the works of art are displayed, the catadores are there to be honored by the public and interviewed by the press. They say their lives are changed, elevated forever.
Waste Land is a testimony to the transformational nature of art in people's lives. Lucy Walker is an extraordinarily sensitive and caring filmmaker who not only chooses inspiring subjects, but consistently reveals the inner strength and dignity of her characters, showing that people in difficult circumstances can accomplish great things if given the chance to do so. Walker's a compelling storyteller, and all of her finest qualities as a filmmaker are present in this wonderful documentary.
If You Like This Film, You Might Also Like:
- Garbage Dreams
- My Kid Could Paint That
- Jean-Michel Basquiat: Radiant Child
- Afghan Star
- The Cool School
- Title: Waste Land
- Director: Lucy Walker
- Release Date: Premiere at 2010 Sundance Film Festival
- Running Time: 98 mins.
- Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
- Country: UK, Brazil
- Locations: Brazil, New York City
- Language: Portuguese
- Production Company: Almega Projects
- Distribution Company: Arthouse Films
- Official Website