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The Slumdog Millionaire of Documentaries

May 2, 2011

The Huffington Post calls it the Slumdog Millionaire of documentaries. Waste Land is a raw yet inspiring film about catadores (waste pickers) in Rio de Janeiro’s largest landfill: Jardim Gramacho and a man who changes their lives through his art. Photographer Vik Muniz visits the landfill and creates portraits of several catadores using recyclable material from the dump. The works are enormous and are best viewed from above. Vik vows to sell framed copies of the portraits and donate the money back to the catadores. What happens in the process is remarkable.

This movie isn’t new–it’s at least six months old–but it’s been coming up in all my conversations, which caused me to watch it again. You don’t have to be interested in garbage to appreciate Vik’s skill as an artist and the effortless way he relates to the people he meets. It will cause you to think about poverty, the meaning of wealth and how an act of kindness can change the trajectory of someone’s life.

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