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Imagine you are in a museum and you spy a painting by Monet on a far wall. You walk over to it and stand back taking in the entire scene.
You see the painting in its wholeness; the brush strokes, texture, and splotchy colors of the paint are non-existent.
Then you move nearer and peer at specific areas of the canvas.
The painting is no longer a scene of wholeness—you see it in fragments. You move back and forth between close up viewing and standing farther away. Each position is important in understanding what it took to create the art and take in the art.
And so it is with the documentary, Waste Land. Internationally renowned artist, Vik Muniz travels from his home base in Brooklyn, NY to his native Brazil and to the world’s largest garbage dump—Jardim Gramacho.
His mission is to make art from the garbage and somehow use this same art to help the catadores—the people that people turn away from in disgust and ignorance. These are the people who are the self-designated pickers of recyclable materials. To earn a living and support their families, they scale the smelly mountains of tons of refuse dumped from trucks each day.
Vik looks at the entire dump site from aerial photos and then he moves in closer by walking throughout the dump and talking with the catadores. Out of the many, he ends up working with seven of them in a collaboration of art-making. He decides to create photographic portraits of the catadores in positions reflecting iconic images of art.
These images become the basis of huge renditions of the photographs through creating them with the recyclables gathered and placed by the catadores. And then he photographs these renditions and blows them up into huge photographs that are then sold at an auction house in London. Each of the participating catadores receives some of the proceeds and some of it goes to fund the programs the catadores' union is working to develop.
Vik works in layers and layers of art-making process just as the garbage dump contains layers and layers of human refuse and history.
The documentary is fascinating and heart-filling. It sweeps away ignorance, prejudice, and generalizations. You see the struggle, the bad luck, and the achievements that can be wrested from poverty. You'll cry, cheer, and be inspired by the power of the human spirit to transcend insurmountable challenges. You'll be amazed at the power of art to transform how people see themselves and then their lives. You’ll want others to watch this film.
Don’t wait. Click on the DVD cover and learn more. (Affiliate link)