You know a movie is really, really good when your first thought after watching it is “The world would be a better place if everyone watched this movie.”
Watching Waste Land (a Lucy Walker film starring Brazilian artist Vik Muniz) was an extremely educational, inspiring, and insightful experience for me. Waste Land documents an artistic and humanitarian adventure by Vik Muniz, as he travels to the largest landfill in the world, which is in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and collaborates with catadores, “pickers,” to create a collection of fine art made from junk. Along the way, the film touches upon people’s view of themselves and societal class structures. Society impresses upon us the difficulty of breaking out of one’s class, of rising above. But this film shows us that, to the contrary, anything is possible when people put their minds to it. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” is an old cliché, but it’s true. What I love about Waste Land is that it’s actually a film about the whole human race. It’s amazing when a true life story breaks down cultural and linguistic barriers and becomes something that can be understood by every human being on the planet–it becomes universal. And that’s exactly what Waste Land does.
The film was especially insightful and personal to me, because I’m working on the documentary Chariot Men. Chariot Men deals with the carroceiros (or “chariot men”) who gather garbage–ahem, recyclable material (thanks Tião for educating me on the difference!)–from the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil and bring it to a recycling plant on the Ilha das Flores (“Isle of Flowers”) where the catadores (just like the catadores in the film Waste Land) separate materials that can be recycled. While Chariot Men is going to tackle some different questions like the problem of the carroças (“chariots”) in inner-city traffic, and the problem of animal abuse, I really see it as a story about people stuck in their class structure, which they’ve been stuck in for generations, while people in a higher class struggle with how to deal with them. For those of us who aren’t stuck in a lower class in society, it sticks the question in our faces which really needs to be shoved in our faces, so we can’t ignore it: What do we do about the problems in the world around us? What do we do about people who are less fortunate than us? Do we perceive them as a problem, as a threat? Do we try to do something to help their situation? Or do we simply ignore them?
It’s no wonder Waste Land was nominated for an Academy Award. It is a film with the capacity to make a positive, uplifting impact on the life of every person who watches it. Vik Muniz and the filmmakers are a good example to us, by doing something to make a change in the world, to inspire people and help them believe that they can change. There doesn’t have to be so much poverty and misery in the world. Although not easy, it is possible to inspire change in people’s lives and help them to transform their lives into something better, something more dignified. If Vik did it, it means that other people can do it too. I hope that in some way, the film Chariot Men will help unite with the voices of others like those who made Waste Land, to inspire change. Even if it only changes one person’s life, it will have been worth it.
To learn more about the film Chariot Men, and how you can help this important documentary get made, visit the IndieGogo Chariot Men page.