WasteLand is a documentary that shows the project undertaken by artist VikMuniz and is directed by Lucy Walker. The artist travels from hishome in Brooklyn to the world’s biggest landfill called JardimGramacho outside Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The garbage forms the mainfocus of the documentary as seen in the streets and the landfill. VikMiniz works with a group of pickers of recyclable materials increating their artistic portraits with the garbage materials. Theindividuals work in an organization founded and led by SebastianCarlos Dos Santos, the ACAMJG. The workers also refer to theassociation as the Association of Pickers of Jardim Gramacho. Thefilm depicts the garbage collectors as individuals who like their joband value their dignity. The artist wanted to change the communityand took Santos to the most prestigious auction house in London tosell the contemporary art made from refuse. Muniz gives the moneymade from selling the artworks and film awards to the recyclablematerial collectors and the association as well to improve theircommunity. The documentary shows how the actions of a single personcan change the society. The trip to London and the project as a wholechanged the mindset of the people and also improved their lives andthat of the community.
Munizfinds out that the Jardim Gramacho does not look like what heperceived. The community residing and working there does not engagein criminal activities, but works hard to earn a rightful income. Thepeople go through the garbage looking for recyclable material, whichis to recycling companies. The artist had fallacy of thought known ashasty generalization because he believed what others said about thegarbage collectors.
Thefocus of the documentary falls on the life experiences and tales ofthe main characters and the garbage material. The documentary hasmany memorable moments that included the garbage pickers posing forVik Muniz and their life stories. One of the garbage collectorscalled Valter worked as a picker for more than twenty years and wasproud of his work because he knew the importance of recycling. Valterhad a character of a happy person, although his job did not pay much.He told optimistic and positive stories about the lives of the peoplein the area. Despite working and living in a landfill the people leadordinary lives just like anyone else in the country. The man showsthat what he does helps in preserving the environment. Through theindividual’s perspective of life, people can earn money doingdifferent things, despite some of the jobs being considereddisgusting.
Munizstops narrating the about the activities taking place and makes thepickers talk about their lives and films them in their privatemoments. The approach makes the viewers sympathize with them, as theyunderstand their situation and the factors that led them to work inthe landfill. One of the scenes shows Suelem, an eighteen year oldmother of two, going to see her children being raised by her mother.The strategy used in the documentary lets people have a closer lookat the living conditions of the people. The exploitative behavior ofthe artist and the directors comes to light when they let the cameraroll while one of the collectors, Isis, breaks down because she doesnot want to go back to work in the landfill. Her experience withMuniz creating art portraits caused her distress. The opportunity towork in the studio opened her point of view of life. She desired toattain more in her life and not live her entire life in pickingrecyclable material.
Oneof the documentary’s scenes includes a talk Muniz has with some ofhis assistants. The assistants worry that their activities mayinterfere with the lives of the collectors. The project gave thepickers a chance to view the world in a dissimilar way as they usedand the end of the project would leave them unhappy. At the beginningof the documentary, the garbage collectors seemed happy with theirlives. The team may have gone to the site with the aim of doing theirart project and not have a close relationship with the community. Thediscussion amongst them shows they got worried about the welfare ofthe people. The team did not want to leave them in a state ofdespair. The team’s concern becomes manifest when one of thepickers, Isis, confesses that she does not want to go back to herprevious work in the landfill. Some of the workers may have been indenial, while others enjoyed the work. At the end of the project,Isis left for good, while Taos opted to remain working at thelandfill. Irma left Jardim Gramacho, but returned afterwards becauseshe missed her friends.
Theproject proved beneficial to many of the people residing in the areaand also the Association of Pickers. Many of the collectors did notwant anyone to know that they worked as garbage collectors. Magna,one of the workers in the project, did not let her family know whatshe did for a living. She did not have a chance to spend time withher children as she worked even during the night. The sales from theproject enabled her to move out of the landfill. She works in a drugstore that has favourable working hours. Her perspective of workingat the landfill changed, and she told everyone that she used to workthere.
Oneof the workers called Zumbi used to collect books from the garbagethat arrived at the landfill. He had a dream of building a library inthe neighbourhood despite the fact other workers did not value books.Zumbi introduced Tiaos to a culture of reading when he brought himbooks. Tiaos’ reading habits become evident when he talks aboutMachiavelli. The recyclable material brought to the landfill enabledsome of the people to gain knowledge and have a desire to improvetheir standards of living. Many people, especially the high andmiddle-income earners believe that the material they throw cannothelp anyone. The thrown books have helped people change their viewsand gave Tioas the courage to start the organization.
Thepickers work in the art studio lifted their spirits and made themfeel part of something meaningful. Being the subject of this projectwould make anyone feel unique because of being the centre ofattention. The work in the landfill enabled the artist to identifyand work with them in making the portraits. Muniz made the worldrealize that the recyclable materials have worth to everyone, eventhe rich as they bought one of the pieces for fifty thousand dollars.