Waste Land, a movie that has changed lives


This film represents a convergence of so many facets of my life that I hardly know which aspect bears the most weight, or would be most fitting here. Perhaps I should begin at the beginning …

In January 2001 I spent a month in Alpercata, a small farming community in mid-eastern Brazil. When I arrived, my Portuguese language skills  were non-existent, but after several weeks in what could only be called a cultural immersion, I was able to engage in light conversation and make purchases at the market. The details of that month are best saved for another day, but for your amusement, here is a quick peek at yours truly, posing for posterity in Pai Pereira’s dairy cow corral (he’s the gentleman in the white shirt):
alpercata, brasilThree important things from that trip that relate to Waste Land the movie: 1) In both the rural farming communities where I spent the most time, and along the coast in the state of Bahia, I observed problems with trash disposal and management;  2) the lyrical nature of the language was intoxicating; and, 3) the grace, dignity, and hospitality of the Brazilian people endeared me to their country for life.

What happens in the world’s largest trash city will transform you.” — from the Waste Land movie trailer

The photographs that are the result of the creative collaboration between  Vik Muniz, his unique artistic vision, and a select group of catadores (pickers of recyclable materials) who worked alongside him in his Rio de Janeiro studio, drew the second largest crowd ever to Rio’s Modern Art Museum. The catadores’ lives were forever changed. And honestly, after watching this film, I cannot imagine anyone not thinking differently about: art (what is it? why do we make it?) and trash (how can I make less of this stuff? how can I be more ingenious in my upcycling and recycling?) and the people who work in the trash industry.

Four days have gone by since I watched the film and I’m still thinking about it. How often does that happen? Needless to say, I recommend it highly. For those who don’t like subtitles, there are some, but a considerable portion of the film is in English, as well. Please — go see it or rent it from your library. And then share your thoughts here. It will be fun to discuss.

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3 responses to “Waste Land, a movie that has changed lives

  1. Thank you …I will look for it on Netflix.

  2. I was particularly moved by Vik’s conversation with the “advisors” who told him it would be a bad idea to bring the catadores to London because it would be painful for them to experience a life they could not have. Fantastic documentary.

  3. I’m adding it to my list and will report back.

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