By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
This is the final piece of the Oscar documentary features category.This is one hell of a category, and analysis will be forthcoming tonight.All of the films are very strong in their own ways, and this is no exception.
Waste Land tells the story of a world-renowned Brazilian artist, Vic Muniz, who is known for using a variety of strange materials like sugar, peanut butter, and diamonds paired with photographs to create works of art which show worldwide.His latest project is to create recreations of famous paintings using garbage as his medium, but the statement he’s making isn’t what you think it’d be.
Cause that would be a bit obvious
Rather, he travels to the largest landfill in the world, Jardim Gramacho in Rio de Janeiro, to use the garbage pickers there as his models and assistants and use the portraits they make to gain them some recognition and better their lives.
The heart and soul of this film is the small group of residents of Gramacho that become his models.Their stories are sad, and their lives are about what you’d expect for people who spend the entire day picking through garbage for recyclable materials.
However, they have a innate dignity and will to succeed that puts most of us to shame.These people have dreams, especially Tiao, president of the trash-picker’s association, which he created and nurtured from nothing into an entity with a real say in the realm of recycling and trash collecting.He discusses Machiavelli and Nietsche with a depth of knowledge that is amazing, especially considering his secondary education has come from books other people have thrown away.
The cinematography is excellent, with a real eye towards contrasting the simple beauty of a traveling sun with the bleak images that occur underneath it.The music, which was done by Moby, also turns into a powerful emotional catalyst when art starts to take shape.
Less impressive is Muniz and his production crew.He’s also risen out of poverty, and his story is worth being told.Still, his ego shines through, especially as the movie opens with a talk show host telling him he’s one of the greatest artists alive.While this adds interest to the film, the following images of his work on display at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and elsewhere would have done the job.
This is also reflected in some overblown rhetoric as he’s planning the trip which feels more scripted than anything.This sort of insincerity is what Banksy attacks in fellow nominee Exit Through the Gift Shop and is part of the reason why modern art has the reputation it does.Even Muniz himself intimates that the real crazy people in this world are the ones who buy it.
This documentary is well worth watching for the hidden world of trash pickers it uncovers and the amazing people that populate it.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time Vik Muniz is referred to as Brazil’s greatest artist
Take a Drink: each time he pats himself on the back
Take a Drink: every time someone cries