Photo Credit: Wasteland
Throughout this Green Week, inspiration has come from many places – the Prince of Wales and his Harmony project to California’s expanded ban on plastic bags -– but perhaps the most moving is Lucy Walker's Wasteland, a documentary about the artist Vic Muniz and his work at the world’s largest landfill.
Winner of multiple awards (including an audience award at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival), Wasteland chronicles Muniz as he embeds himself into the world of "pickers" -- men and women who work at Jardim Gramacho landfill in Brazil. Each day these hardworking recyclers hand comb through the piles of waste to pull out any and all materials that can be reused. The service they perform is immeasurable and grossly undervalued.
For the half dozen featured in Wasteland, Muniz transforms their lives by pulling them into the artistic process, hiring them to help create swimming pool-sized portraits out of actual pieces of garbage. The resulting pieces of art give them not only global recognition, but also a profound sense of pride.
For viewers, it instantly makes you look at your own garbage –- and how much you produce of it every day –- in a whole new light. Where does it go? How is it handled? What becomes of it? After watching Wasteland you’ll agree, every little bit of conservation helps. To quote Valter Dos Santos, an elder picker who worked at Jardim Gramacho for his entire life, "99 bottles is not 100."