“Wasteland” is a sensational documentary following world-renowned artist Vik Muniz as he spent 3 years in Brazil at Jardim Gramacho, a garbage landfill where its workers manually handpick recyclable materials from the debris. The workers or also known as “pickers” work in very dangerous and unsanitary conditions day and night sorting through mountainous piles of debris collected all over Rio de Janeiro. I have heard about and seen about the work that Vik Muniz did at the wasteland but I never understood the scope of his work in Brazil. What I found so touching about the film was Vik’s relationship with these workers, and how fearless he was to go out there with time in the landfill despite the conditions. I found the worker’s attitudes and opinions about working in the landfill were so positive and uplifting. Even though their work was very grueling and hard never once did they express any embarrassment of their occupation. Everyone was very positive and proud of their profession and that they were making an honest living, considering Brazil is rampant with drug trade and prostitution.
While all of the works featured in the film were all beautiful, I picked the one of Tiao and Suelem for my post. It is so incredible to scale of this work and that all of these people were involved in the making of the art. Muniz mentioned in the film that he did this so that they could know that they did this for themselves and that it wasn’t just him. And I think through this project these people left with a greater sense of accomplishment and empowerment. Muniz said, “I used to have nothing nothing and wanted everything, but now I have everything and want nothing,” and that is probably why Muniz felt so compelled to dedicate three years helping these people through what he knew, art. “Wasteland” is a wonderful example of how art can transform lives in unexpected and profound ways.