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The Green Life: Movie Review Friday: Waste Land

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May 20, 2011

Movie Review Friday: Waste Land

Escape to the movies with one of our Movie Review Friday selections. Each week we review a film or television event with an environmental theme. Seen a good eco-flick lately? Send us a short review and look for it in the next Movie Review Friday.

Waste Land (2010)

Available on DVD


 At first it's hard to tell what the Oscar-nominated documentary Waste Land is about. Is it about art? Overstuffed landfills? Alleviating poverty? An ambitious recycling program in Rio de Janeiro?

The film, which chronicles the work of Brazilian artist Vik Muniz, is about all those things. And a lot more. When Muniz found out about the catadores, the people who cull recyclables out of Brazil's landfills for money, he felt compelled to take action the only way he knew how: by creating art. 

Muniz's artistic medium, in fact, is what makes the story interesting. "What I really want to do," he said, "is be able to change the lives of a group of people with the same material they deal with every day." That material is garbage.

After taking portraits of the landfill's most charismatic catadores, Muniz picked the best shots and projected them on a gargantuan scale onto a studio floor. He then enlisted his new friends to bring the images to life by artistically placing garbage on top of the projections. The result? Massive, temporary portraits on the ground. Muniz photographed these, then auctioned off the prints and gave his profits to the catadores.

The film is thoroughly inspiring and provides many reminders: of the massive amounts of waste we humans generate, of the inequality that prevails in so many places around the world, and most importantly, of the formidable human spirit.

--Rosie Spinks


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