Aired Tuesday April 19th, 2011 at 11:00 pm on KUED HD Ch. 7.1
Large scale portrait made from trash
Filmed over three years, Lucy Walker's "Waste Land" follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home base in Brooklyn to his home country of Brazil, and to Jardim Gramacho, the world's largest garbage dump located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. There Muniz photographs an eclectic band of catadores - pickers of recyclable materials - and then works with them to "paint" their portraits using garbage. The resulting collaboration is a powerful and moving story of people, art and the human spirit. Independent Lens "Waste Land" premieres Tuesday, April 19 at 11:00 p.m. on KUED Channel 7.
An estimated 3,000 to 5,000 people, known as catadores, live in Jardim Gramacho dump, while 15,000 derive their income from activities related to it. Some Gramacho residents come from families who have been working there for three generations. Muniz was surprised to meet the community of people who scavenge the refuse of Rio to make a living.
"I was expecting to see people who were beaten and broken, but they were survivors," he says. He collaborated with a number of catadores on large-scale portraits of themselves, including Irma, a cook who sells food in the dump; Zumbi, the resident intellectual who has held on to every book he has scavenged; and 18-year-old Suelem, who first arrived there when she was seven.
Muniz was born into a working-class family in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1961. As a young man, he was shot in the leg while trying to break up a fight. He received compensation for his injuries and used the money to move to New York City. He began his career as a sculptor, but gradually became more interested in photographic reproductions of his work, eventually turning his attention exclusively to photography.
Upon finishing the series of portraits made of trash, Muniz takes one of them to auction at the esteemed Philllipe de Pury art auction in London, where it sells for over $50,000. One hundred percent of the profits are returned to the Garbage Pickers Association of Jardim Gramacho, whose young, charismatic president finds his life changed forever.
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