Director: Lucy Walker (with Joao Jardim and Karen Harley)
“It’s not bad to be poor. It’s bad to be rich, at height of fame and a dirty shame”
Valter Dos Santos
Waste Land is the Oscar nominated documentary from Lucy Walker. Filmed over a period of three years, it follows Vik Muniz, the Brazilian artist, as he explores the lives of the pickers at Jardim Gramacho - the world’s largest rubbish dump.
While there, Vik photographs the eclectic characters he meets. Using their images as a basis for creating portraits made up completely of recycled materials from the site, he then plans to take the images to auction in order to raise money for the pickers.
What appears at first to be a simple documentary about a wealthy artist going to observe the lives of less wealthy people, quickly turns into an exploration into the lives of people who display both dignity and despair at what they do. The characters that we meet with Vik are the heart of the story. Gripping and compelling, you feel an urge to learn more.
|Portrait of Tiao|
We meet charismatic Tiaõ, a picker since the age of 11 and now the young, ambitious president of ACAMJG (Association for the Pickers of Jardim Gramacho). Inspired by books he recovers from the landfill, he plans to improve the lives of his fellow workers. Along with Tiaõ, we meet young mum, Suelem, proud of her role as a picker. She puts it into perspective, explaining that it keeps her out of prostitution and drug trafficking. The bleakness of their lives is questioned throughout, the workers seem almost content and settled in the way things have turned out. This opens up the ethical issues that the project brings about, taking them out of the world they know, to the more privileged arena of art, they inevitably don’t want to return to that way of life. The guilt and confusion the people involved feel towards the project is picked up, but Vik continues, loyal to his aim.
The brilliance and artfulness of Waste Land is all thanks to the characters, who almost feels they were created for the screen, and express themselves with such casual insightfulness it feels like an adaptation from an aged text. Waste Land is not just a simple documentary on the environment, but puts forward a lot of questions about the power of art in society, and whether - as in this case - it can change people.
Wasteland is in cinemas now and available on DVD from 28th February
For more information: www.wastelandmovie.com
Words: Emma Hurwitz
Images courtesy of E1 Entertainment Film