The Art of Recycling

Recently nominated by the academy for Best Documentary Feature, Waste Land shadows a recent project of Brazilian art phenom Vik Muniz. The visual artist, known for recycling unorthodox materials in his mixed-media representations, travels to the world’s mother lode of trash to treasures: the Jardim Gramacho landfill, located just outside of Rio de Janeiro, which boasts the largest volume of garbage in the world. Muniz’s arrival at the überdump begins under the auspices of a photography project, with Muniz snapping both candid and staged portraits of the more than 2,500 “pickers” — low-income laborers who scour the landfill for recyclable goods — to sell in the States for profits that would be entirely circulated back into the pickers’ shoestring organization. It’s enough that Muniz and the film’s director, Lucy Walker (Countdown to Zero), take the time to let their cameras linger on a blighted area that Brazil’s hierarchical class system would rather keep hidden; but the film finds its most powerful calling when Muniz collaborates with the pickers, turning the artist’s blown-up black-and-whites into unique works of garbage-filled art. Waste Land is both an indictment of a nation’s class system and a celebration of the way philanthropic art can lift people out of poverty and validate a culture. It’s well worth the Oscar nod. Waste Land opens Friday at Cinema Paradiso, 503 SE Sixth St., in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $9 general admission, $7 seniors and students, and $5 for Fort Lauderdale Film Festival members. Call 954-525-3456, or visit fliff.com.
Fri., Feb. 11, 6 p.m.; Tue., Feb. 15, 8 p.m., 2011

 
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