Film Film Reviews

Giving Life to Rubbish – Waste Land

ARTIST Viz Muniz gives life to rubbish.

The photographer, born in Sao Paulo, uses everyday objects to cast culturally significant and familiar images in a new, modern light. As in 1997 when he famously recreated one of Hans Namuth’s photographs of Jackson Pollock in action using chocolate syrup. A confectionary spin on the abstract expressionist.

In 2006, Muniz embarked on an ambitious and dangerous two-year project to create art from one of the world’s largest landfill sites. Followed by English documentary filmmaker Lucy Walker, Muniz headed to the Jardin Gramacho waste site on the edge of Rio De Janeiro – a place for rubbish and people ‘at the end of the line’ in every sense of the phrase.

On this project, Muniz and Walker unearth stories of cruel hardship among the mountainous landscape of bottles, plastic bags and detritus. This is a place where everyone’s life has been ravaged by poverty, disease, violence, drugs and death. Jardin Gramacho is not only a site of man-made waste but also of wasted life.

waste land

Muniz hopes his art will give something back to the community of Jardin Gramacho pickers who spend their days climbing the mountains of rubbish as a means of survival. He grew up poor and wants to give back. This is the perfect opportunity for him to make a statement about Brazilian classism in a place where the rubbish of Rio’s richest and poorest are mixed together.

Walker’s documentary is a tough look at the expense of human neglect. Both to our environment and to the poorest in our societies.

Yet thanks to the resourceful work of Muniz, this is a Waste Land, unlike T.S Eliot’s, that offers a lot more than a glimmer of hope.

film challenge

This was review 30/30 in April’s Close-up Culture Film Challenge – Female Filmmakers.

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