Waste Land

Rated 4.0

Mixed-media artist Vik Muniz is all about transformation. He is interested in changing not only mundane objects into art (material into ideas) but also the lives of his subjects. Here director Lucy Walker (Countdown to Zero) and two co-directors follow the Brazilian-born New Yorker into a massive landfill outside Rio de Janeiro where he collaborates with six of the some 3,000 catadores (“pickers” who rummage for recyclables through the 200 tons of rubbish that arrive each day). He wants to photograph these poverty-level laborers for use in huge art constructions that the pickers themselves populate with human discard and then share the profits with them from a high-end London art auction. The film develops a multiprong focus as it explores the pickers’ lives, the effect of artists and documentarians on their subjects, and the very essence of self-worth and happiness.