Artist Vik Muniz himself grew up in the slums of Brazil, but now that he is himself the most successful artist to come from Brazil, he thinks it is time to give something back to the community in which he grew up. In Waste Land, we see what kind of people work as “pickers” at Jardim Gramacho, the world’s largest rubbish dump, and can show that they are worth more than the garbage they work in day after day.
Nowadays it is very hip: to be climate neutral and to be more aware of the environment. This makes recycling something that will play an increasingly important role in our lives. In “Waste Land” we can see how this is put into practice in the garbage dumps of Brazil where many people make a living by fishing recyclable material from the garbage and selling it to manufacturers. Only the poorest people from the favelas (slums) do this hard work in a country that is still strongly divided into classes. Yet they do get credit from their job, because at least they don’t work in the drug trade or prostitution. Vik Muniz makes portraits of the “pickers” and then turns them into large works of art from recyclable materials. The photos of these works of art are sold. He gives the proceeds to Tião, the leader of the “pickers”, who will use the money to improve their lives, for example through education.
“Waste Land” is a beautiful documentary that will arouse in viewers nothing but great respect for the workers of Jardim Gramacho. They are often people who have experienced the most terrible things. Despite this, they have never given up and still have hope for a better life. The sympathetic artist Muniz is clearly concerned with the people and perhaps partly because of this knows how to create a beautiful photo reportage. It may sound a bit soggy on paper, but it is not for a moment. The documentary makes no use of cheap sentiment and therefore knows how to hit it all the better. A really beautiful and inspiring film.