Waste Land

"The moment when one thing turns into another is the most beautiful moment. A combination of sounds turns into music. And that applies to everything."

Film Signature Image
Independent Lens
Premiere Date
April 19, 2011
90 minutes
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2010 International Documentary Association (IDA)-Best Documentary Award
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2010 Sundance Film Festival-World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2010 Vancouver International Film Festival-Rogers People's Choice Award
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2010 International Documentary Association (IDA)-Pare Lorentz Award
  • Nominated laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2011 Academy Awards-Best Documentary Feature
  • Director

    Lucy Walker

    Lucy Walker uses dramatic filmmaking techniques to make documentary films, following memorable characters on transformative journeys that grant unique access inside closed worlds. In addition to Waste Land, Walker directed a second feature documentary that premiered at Sundance 2010 and was recently released in theaters: Countdown to Zero, a Show more terrifying exposé of the current threat of nuclear terrorism and proliferation. Walker's previous film, Blindsight, premiered at Toronto and received audience awards at the Berlin (Panorama), Ghent, AFI, and Palm Springs film festivals, and nominations for Best Documentary at the 2007 Grierson Awards and British Independent Film Awards. Walker's first feature documentary, Devil's Playground, premiered at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival and went on to win awards at the Karlovy Vary and Sarasota film festivals, three Emmy Award nominations for Best Documentary, Best Directing and Best Editing, and an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Documentary. Walker's credits also include Nickelodeon's Blue's Clues, for which she was twice nominated for Emmy Awards for Outstanding Direction in a Children's Series, and several award-winning narrative short films. Show less


    Angus Aynsley


    Hank Levine

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    The Film

    Filmed over nearly three years, Waste Land follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home base in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world's largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. There he photographs an eclectic band of "catadores" — or pickers of recyclable materials. Muniz's initial objective was to "paint" the catadores with garbage. However, his collaboration with these inspiring characters as they recreate photographic images of themselves out of garbage reveals both dignity and despair as the catadores begin to re-imagine their lives. Director Lucy Walker (Devil's Playground, Blindsight) has great access to the entire process and, in the end, offers stirring evidence of the transformative power of art and the alchemy of the human spirit.