Monday, March 12, 2012

Waste Land

Tonight, I attended the first movie to be shown in the newly renovated Bloor Cinema here in Toronto.  The Bloor is one of the few old-time movie theatres left in Toronto.  It was originally called the Madison Picture Palace when it was opened in 1913.  Somehow, despite the disappearance of all such theatres in Toronto, the Bloor survived as a theatre until this year, when it was bought by Hot Docs, the wonderful people who put on the Hot Docs Festival in the spring, largest documentary film festival in North America.  The renovation is great - wonderful comfortable new seats, while preserving the atmosphere of the original theatre.

And tonight's movie Waste Land was great.  It is the story of US-based Brazilian visual artist Vik Muniz and his art project in the world's largest landfill outside Rio de Janiero.  In this dump work 2,500 catadores who 'recycle' 200 tons of garbage a day.  The charismatic leader of the Catador Association, Tiao, is quick to point out that the garbage pickers are not really picking garbage, but removing recyclable materials from the land fill.  This picture shows Muniz standing beside the mountain of waste that has just arrived at the land fill, with the catadors swarming over it.  The catadors sell the recycled material to wholesalers, and respond to demand from those wholesalers in determining priorities for picking.  They also salvage books for their own use, and other materials.

Muniz gains the trust of the workers at the dump, and takes photos of them which he then enlarges many times.  Muniz then involves the workers in artfully arranging garbage - oops make that recycled materials - over the photographs to create a work of art.  Muniz then photographs the result.

To see the transformation, here's the original photograph of one of the women and the resulting piece of art that she herself helped to create. 

At the left you can see the original picture of Tiao being taken at the garbage dump posed as Marat in the bath tub from a famous painting by Jean Louis David.  The next picture shows Tiao looking at the art from a catwalk with the garbage spread on it.  That picture gives you a sense of the scale of the art work before the final photograph is taken. 

The movie shows Tiao's triumphant trip to London with Muniz where his photograph is auctioned for $56,000.  In all, the art work sold for $250,000, all the proceeds of which was donated to the Catador Association.  The dump is to be closed in 2013, so the money will be put to education and retraining.

This was a very uplifting movie.

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