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Friday, 10 December 2010 00:00

"Waste Land" offers a treasure trove

"Waste Land" offers a treasure trove csmonitor.com
Written by Diane Carson
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Too many documentaries about artists fail to rein in the narcissistic indulgence of a work focusing on a talented subject—whether filmmaker, painter, musician, or other. Not so in Waste Land, a credit to director Lucy Walker and a tribute to mixed-media, photographic artist Vik Muniz who expresses an inspirational social conscience.

Brazilian-born into poverty, now Brooklyn-based Muniz came to the United States in 1982, thanks to money given to him by a wealthy man after he mistakenly shot Muniz, who proudly displays his scar. Vik made the most of his monetary windfall but stays connected to his roots as he champions art that changes lives. Muniz gives his photographic subjects the considerable money people pay for his impressive art, some photographs mimicking iconic paintings.

Waste Land chronicles Vik Muniz's latest project. For two years, Muniz and his assistants worked in Rio de Janeiro's Jardim Gramacho landfill, the largest in the world. Roughly 2500 pickers sort recyclable materials from the over 200 tons of trash hauled in daily, over 70% of Rio's refuse. Muniz poses and photographs impoverished individuals, projects the photo on a flat space, and uses landfill refuse to create a multi-media image. Muniz takes one man to an auction of Vik's work in London and invites all to an exhibition opening in Rio. The results are stunning, the psychic, emotional transformations of his diverse subjects as delightful as the warm rapport Vik establishes with each.

Vik explains that his intent is to mix art with social projects, and he proves that wealth does not indicate the spirit or the humane sensitivity of individuals. After all, these catadores, trash pickers, have organized a sophisticated recycling center, a health clinic, day care, and a library for themselves. Muniz brings them art but their art already exists in their hard scrabble but loving lives.

Waste Land is primarily in English but with some Portuguese with English subtitles. At Landmark's Plaza Frontenac Theatre.

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