Waste Land (2010) - Rotten Tomatoes

Waste Land (2010)



Critic Consensus: Waste Land begins with an eco-friendly premise, but quickly transforms into an uplifting portrait of the power of art and the dignity of the human spirit.

Movie Info

Filmed over nearly three years, WASTE LAND follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home base in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world's largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. There he photographs an eclectic band of "catadores" -- or self-designated pickers of recyclable materials. Muniz's initial objective was to "paint" the catadores with garbage. However, his collaboration with these inspiring characters as they recreate photographic images of themselves out of garbage reveals both dignity and despair as the catadores begin to re-imagine their lives. Walker (Devil's Playground, Blindsight) has great access to the entire process and, in the end, offers stirring evidence of the transformative power of art and the alchemy of the human spirit.-- (C) Official Sitemore
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Documentary, Musical & Performing Arts, Art House & International
Directed By: , ,
In Theaters:
On DVD: Mar 15, 2011
Box Office: $0.2M
Arthouse Films - Official Site

News & Interviews for Waste Land

Critic Reviews for Waste Land

All Critics (68) | Top Critics (18)

I do not mean to make their lives seem easy or pleasant. It is miserable work, even after they grow accustomed to the smell. But it is useful work, and I have been thinking much about the happiness to be found by work that is honest and valuable.

Full Review… | February 10, 2011
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

It shows us how artists find ideas and concepts for their work from the most unlikely sources, and it demonstrates the power of art to spark curiosity and cultural awareness in even the poorest, most underprivileged people.

Full Review… | January 31, 2011
Miami Herald
Top Critic

This conversion of garbage into humanitarian aid is just the beginning. Practical charity gives way to life-changing intimacy.

Full Review… | June 12, 2012

The breadth of gratitude these catadores feel towards Muniz and the life-experience they undertake makes for an intelligent, emotional movie.

Full Review… | November 30, 2011

Waste Land is a real treasure, the sort of heartwarming and life affirming study of people, lacking in both sentimentality and cynicism, that uplifts the audience and elevates the art form

Full Review… | August 19, 2011

Waste Land fuses the design concepts behind two of the most high-profile animations of recent years, Rio and the Oscar-winning Wall-E, into an essay about how hard some people are prepared to work.

Full Review… | April 13, 2011
Birmingham Post

Audience Reviews for Waste Land


A powerful and extremely moving documentary that delves into the creative process of an artist and shows how Art can change people, and the most fascinating is to see the deep, unexpected relationship that grows between the artist and the people who are the subject of his creation.

Carlos Magalhćes

Super Reviewer

What happens in the world's largest trash city will transform you.


A touching documentary that truely depicts a great artist and humanitarian. I loved the movie from start to end and it moved me deeply.

Overall I highly recommend everyone to watch this movie, its amazing, and beautiful! Watch it!

Zumbi: "We have to think about the future because I don't want my son to be a picker. Although if he is, I'd be very proud... But I'd rather he be a lawyer to represent the pickers, you know."

Pedro Holanda

Super Reviewer


Waste Land is a documentary about the Brazilian artist Vik Muniz and his "social work" with workers from the garbage dump Jardim Gramacho. All that poverty is heartbreaking and outrageous in a country with absurd social differences where a few people have a monthly wage that could save lot of families. At the end of the film I could only think how unfair the situation is - Muniz had an amazing and beautiful gesture, but the real changes in the community and their lives were minimal - and felt like that Boris's quote*:

"But what do you do? You read about some massacre in Darfur or some school bus gets blown up, and you go "Oh my God, the horror," and then you turn the page and finish your eggs from the free range chickens. Because what can you do? It's overwhelming!".

Because, what can we do? As the Brazilian filmmaker Joćo Moreira Salles says, it would be an illusion to think that a documentary can change the world and its characters. Vik Muniz did his part and it must be enough.

Other films had already explored this theme like Ilha das Flores (Isle of Flowers, by Jorge Furtado) and Estamira (directed by Macros Prado), both stronger than Waste Land**. This documentary is important to both social and artistic worlds, but it's quite normal as a film. The soundtrack, composed by Mody, sounds superficial and too much melodramatic sometimes. The same happens to some scenes like the one where Vik Muniz, alone in his place, looks to the world globe in his hands with a desolate expression. It's one of those poor scenes where we can almost listen the director saying: take the globe in your hands, look at it, make a sad face, you miss those people, yes, like that, good, that's it . Cut.

* Whatever Works, by Woody Allen.
**There's also the documentary Boca de Lixo, directed by Edurado Coutinho, that I haven't seen yet.

Rubia Carolina

Super Reviewer

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