Vik Muniz “Mother and Chidren” shown in the film Wasteland
If you see one movie this year, see Wasteland. It is the most beautiful film of our generation. Premiering this week in special showings at IFC Film Center in New York, then opening to select theaters in the U.S. on the 29th of August, it may take an Oscar. It will surely take your heart.
Director Lucy Walker follows Brooklyn-based artist Vik Muniz to Brazil, his native country, where he grew up in a lower middle class home. Now, as the country’s most successful art export, Muniz revisits a community of garbage collectors at a landfill. These people live in outposts and rifle through the trash of both the rich and the poor, lifting what can be recycled. One of the oldest men of the workers, the head of their makeshift union, explains with pride that although he is not educated, his job is vital. He is proud. Even if they only collect one piece to be recycled to help the environment, “it’s 99, not 100″ pieces that will pollute.
All the workers in the movie tell their stories, how life took tragic turns. A mother whose son dies from pneumonia and she needs to identify him in a pile of garbage; a woman who cooks food that has not yet gone bad on the collection site so everyone can eat; a man who rescues books from the heaps, dries them in his refrigerator so he can read and educate himself.
Muniz photographs these people and then enlists their help in creating large scale portraits that they fill with garbage, which from afar resembles the most delicately painted pastel border. The image of Tao — one of the most charismatic collectors below — imitating Jacques-Louis David’s The Death of Marat, dying in a tub sold for $50,000 at Sotheby’s in London, with all proceeds going back to help the Brazilian collectors. Muniz donated all the proceeds of the portraits back to them. In recreating them as art, he recognizes their dignity and reshapes their lives. This is a must see, a small miracle of beauty and life. IFCFILMCENTER