Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Waste Land - A Movie Night You Won't Soon Forget

Yeah, I still use Netflix, and I'm glad I do because of the little section called "Local Favorites for Venice, California". My fellow Venetians never let me down, and one I saw there that somehow escaped me when it was in theaters was the stupendous documentary, Waste Land. I actually don't even really want you to finish reading this, just go watch it right now.

Or read a little more, up to you. It's a story (directed movingly by Lucy Walker) about how Brazilian born fine artist, Vik Muniz, (what a cool guy) decides to do a new project about the Catadores (garbage pickers) of the biggest landfill (Jardin Gramacho) in the world, just outside Rio de Janeiro. Having previously found success with a series of portraits of sugar workers' children in St. Kitts (done in sugar), he wanted to do another social justice project in his own homeland.

He travels to the landfill and meets a series of characters among the catadores who he (and we) gets to know and care about as he chooses the people he is going to do portraits of - out of the very garbage they are picking through. Jardin Gramacho is the sketchiest place alive, it seems, with filth for miles and miles. It is not uncommon for the workers to come across horror shows like dead babies among the trash, while they are looking for the recyclable materials that earn them their livings among the mountains of debris. It is an atrocious life, and makes you instantly beyond grateful for ANY work you're doing ... and yet somehow they can all smile, have fun, and make the best of it, every day, for years.

I cried the entire way through, from the sheer volume of disgusting waste (both garbage and lives) that we humans toss away without a care, to the hard HARD existences these dear people toil away through. The PRIDE they have in their work! Recycling - helping the future of our world! - to the sheer triumphant joy of these subjects seeing themselves in a new - and unbelievably beautiful - light. That they MATTER. That they not only posed, but placed the garbage along the lines of their faces themselves. That there is something else, an entire other world/s out there for them beyond the favelas, to dream about, to strive for, and to celebrate.

Life is so precious, and so luck of the draw, man. Like any one of us could have been born into a drastically different scenario, and that's that, for life. Or is it? I took so much away from this magnificent documentary, (and I've been talking about it non-stop, my friends can attest) but above all the different sociological aspects of it all that we could yammer on for days about, was just an overwhelming feeling of intense and sincere gratitude. Which we can all use more of, every single minute of our lucky lives.

Please watch Waste Land ... but better yet, FEEL it.

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