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Monday, September 5 at 10 p.m. – Independent Lens  “Waste Land”

(Rochester, NY) Filmed over nearly three years, Lucy Walker’s Waste Land, airing Monday, September 5 at 10 p.m. on WXXI-TV/HD (DT21.1/cable 1011 and 11), follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home base in Brooklyn to his home country of Brazil. Then on 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 works with them to “paint” their portraits using garbage. The resulting collaboration with these inspiring characters provides profoundly moving evidence of the transformative power of art and its impact on the human spirit.

An estimated 3,000 to 5,000 people live in Jardim Gramacho, while 15,000 derive their income from activities related to it; some are from families who have been working there for three generations. Muniz was surprised to meet the community of people who scavenge the recyclable 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 collaborates 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.

Upon finishing the series of portraits, Muniz takes one of them to auction at the esteemed Phillipe de Pury auction house 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 Tiao finds his life changed forever.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Vic Muniz
Photo Caption: Final Tiao photographic print entitled “Marat/Sebastio – Pictures of Garbage.”

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