1230 Fifth Ave. at 104th Street, New York, NY 10029
Waste Land (Lucy Walker | Brazil/UK | 98 min.)
Lucy Walker's stellar documentary Waste Land, which has won awards at Sundance and Full Frame, follows Muniz on this daring project. Arriving at the landfill, Muniz discovers that the workers are welcoming, engaging, bright people. One man has opened a library using the discarded books he's found, while another has started a union for the pickers. They are also not just scavengers: they run a sophisticated recycling system, doing more for the environment than the mix of millionaires and paupers whose garbage they sift through. In a shining lesson, a wise old man imparts the necessity of recycling each and every possible item, valuing everything, "because 99 is not 100." There is always more you can do; there is always a unique individual who can do something special in this world.
As the pickers help Muniz create portraits of themselves, they become invested in the project, their eyes opened to new ideas, new possibilities. It is then that Muniz and his artistic crew realize the fallacy of their initial assumptions, that though these people were living in squalor, they were somehow happy. In fact, they made do, but they would do anything to leave the landfill. And so as the project comes to a close, the question rises, how can Muniz bare to leave? What will he have done to them, by revealing options but not offering opportunities? It's a meaningful question for many artists and filmmakers, and Muniz and Walker handle it deftly, creating a series of uplifting and genuinely helpful works of art. Muniz is based in Brooklyn and has work in the permanent collection at El Museo del Barrio, and we're thrilled to be recreating a little bit of this wonderful project at Rooftop this summer.
- Mark Elijah Rosenberg