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.

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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 Site
Art House & International , Documentary , Musical & Performing Arts
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Critic Reviews for Waste Land

All Critics (68) | Top Critics (19)

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 9, 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 30, 2011
Miami Herald
Top Critic

While we await the definitive documentary about the glut of garbage, "Waste Land" reduces this global catastrophe to touchingly human scale.

Full Review… | December 9, 2010
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic

It's sheer pleasure watching Muniz work -- seeing him seized by mad impulses of delight.

Full Review… | December 3, 2010
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

"Waste Land" is a testament that things can go from good to bad in an instant. But they can also improve just as quickly.

Full Review… | December 2, 2010
Washington Post
Top Critic

It's not a very good title, Waste Land - this isn't a bleak film, at all - but just about everything else in Lucy Walker's documentary works, and illuminates.

Full Review… | December 2, 2010
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Waste Land


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

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer


As related in the documentary "Waste Land," the best thing that ever happened to artist Vic Muniz was being shot when he was younger. The pay off allowed him to go to America where he could pursue his dreams of being an artist and has succeeded by using found materials. Now, he wants to apply the same approach in returning to his home country of Brazil to create art around the giant garbage dumps in and around Rio de Janeiro, not without a little danger from the nearby favelas. At this point, it is not explained why his wife does not handcuff him to the radiator to prevent him from going. But what he does find in Jardim Gramacho is a great deal of community and camaraderie amongst the thousands of recyclers, which the women prefer to the alternative of drugs and prostitution. This inspires him to give back to the workers by making portraits(my favorite being the Marat pose), while also giving them the proceeds from the sale. "Waste Land" is insightful in giving us a close-up of a rarely seen part of Brazil, and at the same time through the art and publicity exposing it to the wealthy citizens of the country. On a general note, it reminds us of how much we throw out on a daily basis and what can be recycled while also on a metaphorical note that no human being is ever disposable. However, I think the documentary errs by bending over backwards in trying to give a positive spin to the workers' lives, despite the dangers and hard and dirty work involved. And Muniz, whose own story takes a back seat, is to be commended for what he does, even as it is only a drop in a very large ocean.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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

Super Reviewer

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