Waste Land

2010 Documentary

Vik Muniz is an artist who literally creates treasure out of trash; using cast-offs he finds at garbage dumps, Muniz fashions re-creations of famous paintings, and he made an evocative series of images of children who work in sugar plantations using the leftovers from the refining process. So when filmmaker Lucy Walker asked Muniz if she could make a film about him as he worked on his next project, the two settled on what seemed like the perfect location -- Jardim Gramacho, a Brazilian landfill not far from Rio de Janeiro that's said to be the largest refuse dump in the world. Walker's documentary Waste Land explores Muniz's creative process as he fashions new works from what others have left behind, but it also profiles the people who live near Jardim Gramacho and make their living by sorting what's useful from what is not. Walker lends a dignity to these so-called "trash pickers" as they reveal how much of value can be found in other people's refuse and how they maintain their pride and self-respect despite their sometimes meager circumstances. Waste Land was an official selection at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. more..

Director: Lucy Walker


  • Overall, though, the project brings enough good into this rough corner of the world that viewers can walk out with honest cause to be hopeful for its inhabitants.

    John DeFore - The Hollywood Reporter

    11 May 2013

  • A dump is a dump, but it's immediately clear that these are working people who are making the best of their options and who have built a shared camaraderie out of that determination.

    Michelle Orange - Movieline

    11 May 2013

  • Spend some time there, thanks to the documentary Waste Land, and you start to get the sense that, amid the trash, something really is blooming.

    - The Washington Post

    11 May 2013

  • Waste Land is a film about recycling, but it's far more intriguing than the average eco-documentary.

    Walter Addiego - The San Francisco Chronicle

    11 May 2013

  • Waste Land is just what the film's website says it is: "stirring evidence of the transformative power of art and the alchemy of the human spirit."

    Wesley Morris - The Boston Globe

    11 May 2013


  • Best Documentary, Features

    Academy Awards (2011)

  • Lucy Walker

    Berlin International Film Festival (2010)

  • Keen Hybrid Life Filmmaker Grant

    Boulder International Film Festival (2011)

  • Best Documentary

    British Independent Film Awards (2010)

  • Best Documentary

    Chicago International Film Festival (2010)