Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, Waste Land explores the lives - and artistic potential - of several "garbage pickers" in Jardim Gramacho, the world's largest landfill on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.
The documentary focuses on contemporary artist Vik Muniz, who decides to travel to Rio to find art among the millions of tons of garbage in the landfill. There, he encounters many unique and memorable people who make money picking through the garbage for recyclables. They will be his subjects for his aggressive artwork, but it's their stories that are just as lasting.
Waste Land is a well done documentary by Lucy Walker, Karen Harley and João Jardim. It highlights the unique plights and circumstances few Americans can relate to or - or even know exist. But when all is said and done, it's a movie about artwork and proof that such art is more to some people than just paint, sculptures and something nice to look at.
The obligatory "light-hearted" documentary of the nominated bunch, Waste Land also has the lightest punch. There are emotional moments and you many of the garbage pickers' stories are interesting, but it's a documentary without much punch. 2010 was a great year for documentaries, and Waste Land wouldn't fall into my top five.
There's nothing wrong with Waste Land - it's a perfectly good documentary - but of all the pressing topics facing the world, the film feels insignificant in the scheme of things.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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