Waste Land Reviews
At the time of the filming, Vik was at a crossroads in his career. He had made it as an artist but was searching for something else to focus on that would make the world a better place. His fortune in getting out of Brazil is what got him where he is now as an artist so he eventually decided on an ambitious project photographing the people essentially living in the largest landfill in the world, located just outside of Rio.
Along with his crew, Muniz travels around the landfill photographing some of the pickers and getting other shots of the conditions they have to live in, which is very eye opening while seeing the documentary. From the beginning, the pickers almost seem like savages, as they ran around and climbed on trucks in hopes to find plastic recyclables which they exchange for money at the end of the day. It was almost like the pickers were a different breed of people than Vik. The first scenes in the documentary clearly emphasize this.
Vik is seen in his high class New York apartment and studio, including a scene at the end of him lounging around in his personal library, which has books covering every inch of the walls (which go about 10 feet up). Comparatively, the introduction to the pickers and where they live is just the opposite of Vik. Most of them live in shacks with their entire extend families, and Vik alone has more books on one shelf of his library than the entire picker community, who scour the landfill for reading material in the hopes to someday fund a community library. Dreams like this really change the opinion made about the pickers from the initial first impression of them. Its seen as Vik's journey progresses that these people who appear as savage like when looking through trash, are really just like everyone else, including Vik. They were just dealt a bad hand in their life, and the only "respectable" job they could use to keep their family together was by picking through garbage. I say "respectable" because most of them reference that they could be making much more money through prostitution, but that leads to many more obvious risks to their bodies.
The outcome of the documentary isn't a mystery to anyone who sees it. Its clear from the trailer that Vik succeeds with his initial goal of improving the quality of life of the pickers in the landfill due to proceeds from his auction. The actual portraits aren't a mystery either. So, this might make someone ask, why would I spend 90 minutes watching something that I know the outcome to? Well, while that it a good question, its an irrelevant one. The point of this is to show a journey of people. Not to reveal Vik's success with them. An artist who typically makes $50,000 on one painting created lasting relationships with people who make $20 working 10 hours a day. The implications that has on our culture is unreal because it shows how similar we all really are. Thats a message of equality that isn't told too often, and it really should be, which is why societal actions like this one (done by Vik) are so important to our perception of each other in society.