“The moment when one thing turns into another is the most beautiful moment,” says Vik Muniz, the Brazilian artist at the centre of this extraordinary film. Shot over nearly three years, Waste Land follows Muniz, arguably his country’s top contemporary artist, as he journeys from his base in Brooklyn to the world’s largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. There he photographs an eclectic band of catadores—self-designated pickers of recyclable materials.
Muniz’s initial objective was to “paint” the catadores with garbage. However, his collaboration with these inspiring characters as they recreate photographic images of themselves out of garbage reveals both dignity and despair as the catadores begin to re-imagine their lives. Waste Land is a stirring testament to the transformative power of art and the alchemy of the human spirit.