Waste Land


Waste Land

Critics 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.



Reviews Counted: 70

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Average Rating: 4.3/5

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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 Site

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Critic Reviews for Waste Land

All Critics (70) | Top Critics (22)

With Walker and cinematographer Dudu Miranda, Muniz has a hawk's eye for the weird beauty of bulldozed hillocks of trash and the catador faces that he chose to star in photographic portraits.

Nov 14, 2016 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Muniz is a gifted, modest and altogether delightful man, and his project is both aesthetically fascinating and philosophically stimulating.

Feb 28, 2011 | Full Review…
Top Critic

This is undoubtedly a bold raid into an unknown territory - both geographic and conceptual - that the prosperous classes prefer not to think about.

Feb 24, 2011 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

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.

Feb 10, 2011 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

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.

Jan 31, 2011 | Rating: 3/4

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

Dec 10, 2010 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Waste Land


A profoundly moving documentary that delves into the creative process of an artist and shows how Art can truly change people, and the 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


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 João 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
Rubia Carolina

Super Reviewer

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