Waste Land is a British-Brazilian documentary by Lucy Walker about Vik Muniz and his work as an artist. It was released in 2010 at the Sundance Film Festival and went on to win many awards. Vik travels around the world making art and this film concentrated on how he created a series using garbage. He collaborated with trash pickers at the largest landfill in the world, Jardim Gramacho, and tried to show the world their struggles while helping these people. This film is similar to Manufactured Landscapes because it shows his work and his process, but it feels different because it is filled with people and their interactions, giving it a more human feeling. It has to be said however, that it still promotes Vik Muniz because he explicitly says he wants to do his next series with garbage, and it makes the viewer wonder if he genuinely wants to help these people or is just doing it for the film and publicity.
The film is structured around Vik and the friendships he makes with the trash pickers. On his initial journey to Jardim Gramacho, he takes photos of various random people there. He also captures them on camera. Later, a few of these people return to help Vik create his art as his models and assistants. I believe he picked the people with a good personality and story to play into viewer’s emotions and draw empathy. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but something I think happened because he ignores many of the other trash pickers. Compared to Burtynsky’s film, this film was filled with emotion and humor because of the people in it. It was definitely
more enjoyable and I also think it had a more pronounced impact. In terms of which documentary style is better to either promote or display, Waste Land is a better example.
While Vik has to be credited for helping these people escape the landfills for a while and getting them money, he also promotes himself and the film makes him seem like a savior. I believe the real hero of the film is Tiaõ due to his work before the film and also after. He is working to save people from working in the landfill their whole life and also trying to help raise awareness about garbage. Trying to prevent garbage reaching the landfill will help lead to it shutting down, which it eventually did. He also wanted to help educate the workers so that after it closed, they would be able to go into the world prepared. Though Vik was very important and raising awareness and profits for them, Tiaõ did all the hard work. I’m not saying that Vik’s art isn’t hard for him to do, but it isn’t the same as the work Tiaõ has to do.
I thought this film was good to watch because on the surface it seemed very good overall but once you started to look into it you could see some flaws and raise some questions. This leads to good discussions and more awareness about the problems in the film. It didn’t tell the viewer there was a problem and then put solutions at the end, rather it told the story of the fight that people go through every day. It also was a social commentary about consumerism because if we didn’t buy all the things we don’t need and throw away, there wouldn’t be giant landfills. It was eye opening and makes you think how our society evolved into what it is today.