Thumbs Up

Oh sure, I appreciate an intelligent well-made documentary. But I do need to suit up for the experience since I can’t shake the feeling that right after the credits there’s going to be a pop quiz.

“Want to go to Waste Land? It’s playing at the Tivoli at 4:00, movie candy is still on sale at Apple Mart, 10 for $10.”

“Yeah, but do they have Junior Mints and Milk Duds?”

“I think so.”

So here I am on my way to see an academy award nominated documentary that took three years to make about an artist who created portraits of people whose daily jobs were to find, sort and haul reusable trash from the world’s largest garbage dump. “Hmmm, really?” 

Vik Muniz is an internationally known artist who photographs images he creates from unusual art materials: diamonds, string, chocolate syrup, sugar and garbage of all sorts. A native of Brazil, he knows about the huge landfill near Rio and wants to tell the story of the squatter community who depend upon it.  

A core part of the Waste Land project is to involve the subjects in making their own portraits; proceeds from the finished work go back to the community. 

The results are staggering.

Six people are chosen from the thousands of catadores, a self-designated term that means pickers of recyclable materials. The team sets up a workshop in an empty warehouse. As the artwork emerges, each of the characters emerge as well. 

Their combined stories are a powerful testimonial for humanity. Before the movie ends, you’ll want to stand up, raise your fists in the air and yell, Yeah! Go for it! Go for it! as if they are old friends.

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