WASTE LAND Official Trailer from Almega Projects on Vimeo.
Ok, here's a film reviewer's confession: I don't always like environmentalist documentaries quite as much as I think I should.
No sheepish guilt, no tactful handling ("such an important message") is necessary with Waste Land
. This extraordinary film works on every level. Set in the world's largest landfill, it tells a story about the transformative powers of humanity, of art, and yes, of garbage. Waste Land
shows as part of the Manitoba Eco-Network Reel Green Film Festival
, which kicks off Friday night at the West End Cultural Centre
with a very topical doc about the Northern Gateway pipeline project in northern Alberta and B.C. The fest continues Saturday at the University of Winnipeg, with eight films showing from noon to 5:00 p.m.
In Waste Land
(in English and Portuguese, with subtitles), director Lucy Walker (Blindsight
, The Devil's Playground
) follows Vik Muniz, a Brazilian-born artist who works out of New York, as he heads down to Rio de Janeiro to start a three-year-long art project with people who are thought of as the poorest of the poor.
Scene from "Waste Land" (Vik Muniz Studio)
Getting to know some of the "catadores," the men and women who pick through mountains of garbage looking for recyclables to sell, Muniz finds not depressing dead-end situations but a store of human possibility. These people are proud - every day they salvage thousands of tons of recyclable material. They're resilient. And they form a real community.
Muniz collaborates with several of the catadores to produce art works - photos turned into large-scale projections, which are then turned into huge collages, which are then turned back into photographs. Formed from the recyclable materials that yield the catadores' daily wages, these portraits sell overseas for up to $50,000. The pickers' lives change, but so does the life of Muniz.
This film has a lot to say about the environment: we get a really visceral sense of the garbage thrown up by a megalopolis every single day. It speaks to social justice: the pickers' labour association, which was once seen as an impossible dream, now negotiates for their rights.
Walker also asks really interesting questions about art, and about the documentary form. She recognizes that she and Muniz aren't just recording the lives of the catadores. They have entered into a relationship with these people, and taken on a responsibility to them and to their stories.
Their commitment shows. Waste Land is intelligent, visually vivid, almost unbearably moving, and ultimately uplifting. (And yes, I know that word gets overused but there's no other way of describing a film that makes you weep with sadness and with joy.)
Alison Gillmor, CBC Reviewer