Landfill film charts lives of Brazilian poor

A landfill in Brazil may not be the most likely setting for a film, but currently on release across the US and Europe is precisely such a film: Waste Land.

The film, by British director Lucy Walker, was three years in the making and follows artist Vik Muniz as he journeys to his native Brazil from America to the world’s largest landfill site.

At the Jardim Gramacho landfill on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, he photographs the ‘catadores’–self-designated pickers of recyclable materials. He then transforms these photos into portraits created with recyclable materials.

The ‘catadores’ make their living from scavenging on the toxic landfill, selling and using the materials they find. The film documents some of the characters’ lives, their hardships and the events that led to them picking waste to survive.

Lucy Walker was inspired by a visit to a landfill site in Staten Island in the US. She said: “I couldn’t believe I’d never seen a landfill on-screen before. It was the most haunting place…This was the graveyard of all my stuff.”

Vik Muniz is a renowned artist who has used unusual materials to create his images including dirt, diamonds, sugar, string, chocolate syrup and rubbish.

His “Pictures of Garbage Series” was first shown at gallery MAM in Rio de Janerio in Brazil and the exhibition was second only to Picasso in attendance records.

The film currently has no release dates in the UK but is being widely shown in the USA and recently was screened at the Environmental International Film Festival in Paris.

Alison Brown

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie