Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Waste Land

 Some time ago I watched a consciousness raising documentary "Waste Land" about a project of a Brazilian contemporary artist with a NYC address Vik Muniz. The movie was shot at one of the world's largest landfills, on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. The artist spent two years working on this project and in the movie we get to know people who make a living picking the recyclables.
 The garbage-pickers (2500 people) spend their days digging through piles of trash, day and night, in the worst conditions ever, yet they remain joyful, happy to be able to make an honest job. For most of them, the alternative would be drug-dealing or prostitution, but this way at least at the end of the working day they can wash off the dirt.
Source: Waste Land website
 The artist photographs some of the pickers and gets to know them better, goes to their homes, meets their families, talks to them about their hopes and dreams, their past and their future.

  The characters Vik choose are very different one from another:
-Suelem, an 18-year-old single mother of two, working since she was 7 to support a family. While dreaming of being able to take care of her kids she feeds herself with the food she finds among the dump and tells a story of how she found a dead baby in one of the piles.
-Tiao, a charismatic young man who tries to improve pickers' lives by organizing them.
-Zumbi, a man who collects and reads all of the books he finds.
-Isis, a young girl who's been going through a break-up and who hates her job tells her tragic story.
-Irma, a cook who does her best to find the freshest ingredients she can.
-Magna, who has a beautiful smile, started garbage-picking to support her family when her husband lost his job.
-Valter, an elder man without any education, who has been doing this job for 26 years made a few statements that would make seriously rethink recycling everyone (hopefully).
 "One single can is of great importance because 99 is not 100, and that single one will make the difference."

Vik Muniz took pictures of the pickers at the landfill and then recreated portraits with their help using the recyclable items from the dump. The results are very complex portraits that tell a story even without knowing anything about these people.

I think we should take better care of the environment and stop taking it for granted. Movies like Waste Land can be a great wake up call, I recommend it to everyone!

"It's not bad to be poor. It's bad to be rich, at the height of fame, with your morals a dirty shame"
Valter dos Santos, who died of lung cancer during the shooting.

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