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At the Berlin Film Festival's Panorama, the audience award went to WASTE LAND a documentary created by Vik Muniz. Muniz was born very poor in São Paulo in 1961. Today he is widely regarded to be one of Brazil’s most significant contemporary artists and shows internationally including the Museum of Modern Art in NY. He makes use of all sorts of material – including food and rubbish – in order to create his large works of art; he has also often demonstrated his dedication to social issues.
In WASTE LAND Lucy Walker provides a record of one of his most elaborate projects – an installation in ‘Jardim Gramacho’, one of the largest garbage dumps in the world. The dump is located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, where the poorest of the poor live. Many of these people earn a living from the rubbish, which they recycle in many different ways. Known as ‘Catadores’ or ‘pluckers’, Vik Muniz collaborates with many of them on his project.
One of them is Tiao, a charistmatic dreamer who has founded a Catadores cooperative. Another is bookworm Zumbi, who is a real intellectual who collects all the books he finds in the dump and donated them to the cooperative where Tiao reads them. Eighteen-year-old Suelen, who is already mother of two children and is pregnant with a third has been working at the rubbish dump since she was seven years old and is proud that she has never had to work as a prostitute.
Guided by Vik Muniz, these and other workers create extraordinary work of art which involves them shaping of self-portraits in and from the rubbish. The work changes not only their view of themselves, but also their view of the world.
Waste Land is available in the US through Arthouse Films.