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by Lela Scott MacNeil
October 25th, 2010

“The moment when one thing turns into another is the most beautiful moment.”
- Vik Muniz

Lucy Walker and Vik Muniz in person at the Angelika for opening weekend! Tickets here.

Filmed over nearly three years, Lucy Walker’s Waste Land follows superstar artist Vik Muniz as he leaves from his home in Brooklyn for the world’s largest garbage dump in his native Brazil. His goal? To photograph the “catadores” – a Portuguese word that means “human scavenger.”

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.

Muniz’s initial objective was just to “paint” the catadores using the waste that surrounds them. 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. 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.

The film has won awards at the Sundance, Berlin, and Full Frame Festivals, among others. The Hollywood Reporter called it “a joy to watch” and Variety called it “mesmerizing.” It was one of the most popular shows at this year’s Rooftop Summer Series.

But if you missed it, don’t despair, it opens this Friday, October 29th at the Angelika Theater in New York. Lucy Walker and Vik Muniz will be there in person to answer questions during the opening weekend. Get your tickets here and now.

Watch the trailer:

Not in New York City? Find out when Waste Land is playing in your neck of the woods.

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About Rooftop Films

Rooftop Films is a New York based non-profit whose mission is to engage diverse communities by showing independent movies in outdoor locations, producing new films, coordinating youth media education, and renting equipment at low cost to artists.

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