Raised in Sao Paolo but trained in New York (thanks to compensation from a gunshot injury), Vik Muniz made his name creating pictures out of pretty much anything you can’t get in an art shop.
So in the hope that he might recycle some of his success, he returned to Brazil in 2007 to make a series of huge portraits out of garbage – as modelled, collected, and assembled by the catadores of one of the world’s largest rubbish dumps.
If the combination of modern art and poor people sounds potentially pretentious and patronising, Blindsight director Walker immediately clears the air by establishing Muniz’s credentials as both artist and all-round genuine guy.
At the Jardim Gramacho, we get a similarly even-handed look at the men and women who pick anything reusable and recyclable out of Rio’s trash.
Victims of poverty they may be, but these are honourable, decent people who have chosen honest hard work over the easier routes of vice and crime. This despite living in conditions little better than where they work.
They even have a union, whose ambitious president Tiao is one of six pickers Muniz chooses to make art history.
But they are the story; he is simply the catalyst. Though of course, it’s his fame that could change their fortunes.
It’s a situation of which Walker is well aware. Few film-makers would have the guts to spoil the mood. But nearly every hope and dream comes with a reality check.
Yet while the robbing of the payroll is a heartbreaker, Walker’s clinching moment comes when Vik’s wife suggests that the project is giving the pickers false hope. That’s when her document proves itself to be the real deal.
A remarkable testament to working class lives and the unifying power of art, Waste Land is a rare thing - a film that makes you proud to be human.
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