Where Art and Life Intersect, "Waste Land"

A fascinating look at the complex intersections of art and charity, reality and perception, Waste Land follows celebrated New York artist Vik Muniz back to his native Brazil, where he'll work with outer Rio garbage-pickers on an ambitious art project. Ostensibly called to "give back" to the impoverished region from whence he came, Muniz finds that the individual lives he encounters are far more complex than the morbid hordes he'd expected. These "catadores" aren't faceless bottom-feeders but proud laborers who've chosen the dirty job of hand-recycling over drug-trafficking and prostitution. From a studio in New York, Muniz and director Lucy Walker plot a story, and then, at the massive landfill, we see how they select characters to represent it. It's to their credit that the story adapts to these fiercely human characters. The resultant art and film are uncommonly moving, but Walker keeps an eye on the messy pile of life that looms beyond the frame.

Not screened in time for review:

• The Mechanic

 
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