NPR featured a story recently about Mexico City’s dump closure and the effects of 12,600 tons of trash building up on city streets with each passing day. Just imagine what your city might look and smell like if garbage pick-ups … Continue reading
Writing of Mexico City’s pepenadores (trash-pickers) in a recent post brought to mind a wonderful documentary feature I highly recommend to you, called “Waste Land.” Nominated for an Oscar last year, it was in excellent company, and lost out to “Inside Job.”
“Waste Land” follows contemporary artist Vik Muniz as he recreates masterworks improbably inspired by the heroic catadores (scavengers) and the heaps of refuse he encounters at Brazil’s largest landfill, Jardim Gramacho, just north of Rio de Janeiro.
Here’s a bit of filmmaker Lucy Walker’s account of her first scouting visit to Jardim Gramacho:
I’d been expecting these pickers to be the scariest of scavengers, murderers and mental-health hardnuts, garbage-vultures in human form. We’d heard this place described as “where everything that’s not good goes, including the people”. Yet this catador was the most charming, funkily dressed man I’d ever seen. This was Valter Dos Santos, and after meeting him my life would never be the same again.
You might think the subject too depressing, but the film is not so much about garbage as about universal truths. Ultimately it’s an uplifting story about the human spirit and human collaboration, this time in the service of art.
You can stream the movie from Netflix (account required).
UPDATE: Coverage of the closure of Jardim Gramacho in the Rio Times, June 3, 2012.