Tag Archives: Wasteland

Wasteland/Lixo Extraordinário – Discussion Questions

  • In Portuguese, the film is known as Lixo Extraordinário, or Extraordinary Garbage. By creating an entirely different name for an English speaking audience, how is the film altering its portrayal of Brazilians for a global audience?

Referring to the film as Extraordinary Garbage creates a very different mindset for how the film is portraying the workers. The oxymoron used implies that though garbage is perceived as filthy and useless, there are wonderful and extraordinary people working in the landfill. It paints the workers in a much more positive tone. Wasteland immediately triggers a response of a weakened landscape, filled with useless material. It paints a much more hopeless and bleak situation for the workers, which may work to exploit their situation and cause the final portion of the film to be much more dramatic and unexpected.

  • Why does the film lack opinions and interviews from middle class Brazilians directly?

Though negative reactions from others are occasionally mentioned by individuals  from the Wasteland, no direct communication is documented between Vik Muniz and upper-class Brazilians. This may be an assumption that all viewers of the film enter with preconceived stereotypes that working with trash is carries negative connotations. It speaks to who this film was truly made for. Though it benefits and improves the lives of those working in Jardim Gramacho, not directly speaking to other Brazilians implies that this film was created to show upper-class individuals the lives of those below them.

Wasteland Questions

Q1: Is what Vik doing exploitive/borderline cultural appropriation of Brazilian art?

Prelim answer: I think there is an argument both in favor of him being exploitive and culturally appropriating the art created by the catadores/ACAMJD. In ways Vik is westernizing their art by auctioning it off as something that is not representative of Brazil and not fully acknowledging the real artists. This parallels a conversation about African Art in the western world and how it is presented in the art community. On the other hand, we know that Vik comes from a poor socio-economic background and thus would draw the conclusion that he is not exploiting the pickers, rather trying to relate and remind himself about where he comes from (in relation to the pickers low socio-economic status).

Q2: The Portuguese title of Wasteland translates to Lixo Extraordináro. Is there a significance or meaning in this translation to Brazilians?

Prelim answer: while this may not be directly answered in the film, I am still interested to know if there is meaning for the people of Brazil in the title. Given that certain countries movie distributors can dictate the title used or changed, I am interested to see if there was a reason for using this title for Portuguese speaking countries.

The Wasteland Questions

Q1: How does social entrepreneurship function in helping underprivileged people to mobilize their socioeconomic statuses?

A1: In the film, workers of Jardim Gramacho participated in an art project with a supervisor, utilizing recycles and litters to create portraits of its members. After they finished the project, the pieces created through the art collaboration were auctioned and sold at a high price, which the profits were distributed to the workers of Jardim Gramacho. Here, social entrepreneurship played a crucial role in helping those in need to get back on their feet or start a new chapter in their lives with the income they earned from selling the art pieces. Although the money wasn’t significantly large, it was sufficient enough to support the workers in pursuing their dreams. Brazil has one of the largest gaps between the rich and poor in the world. However, it is almost impossible to allocate monetary resources directly to underprivileged people in Brazil, but Wasteland reveals how those in need can be financially supported for minimum investment to pursue their visions.

Q2: How does Wasteland reveal the social construction of Brazil?

A2: During watching this film, there were several features I noticed that reflect the social construction of Brazil. Those working at Jardim Gramacho were predominantly non-whites, whereas the film director (or the project supervisor) was white. Similarly, the film captures a scene at the auction where the ones purchasing art works were, again, white. From my understanding, the auction represented a rich high urban social life that was practiced and enjoyed by white Brazilians. Moreover, a female worker at Jardim Gramacho (I forgot her name) says in the film that she doesn’t want to go back to the garbage land, but she must go back to support her children and mother. This was inevitable for that Brazilian woman because working there was the only option in the society she can utilize to financially sustain her life. This further reflects how, in Brazil, social construction is deeply systematized that those in need possess limited opportunities and resources within the society.

Wasteland discussion questions

Wasteland on Vik Muniz’s journey to Rio de Janeiro was about people who worked on trash picking, which they recycled those reusable materials and reassembled the waste. In Brazil, the problem of decomposing garbage has been a problem, as they took up the land available and were hard to decompose. Those trash pickers in the documentary are from the Brazilian working class and make a living through this job.
To reflect on the documentary, I would like to raise two discussion questions: How did the trash picking job change the people in the documentary? What is the impact of Vik Muniz’s photography project domestically and internationally? The participants of the documentary are from working class and live in favelas outside of Rio de Janeiro. Some of them experienced unemployment in the whole family, and this job gave them a way to support their daily life as their job. Some of them were in poverty as single mothers, and this job provided an opportunity to change their lives, as they did not need to be involved in prostitution. For the head of the organization, reallocating the waste and recycle the materials would help the environment and make use of more land available, so it would not be taken by the trash. The trash picking job overall granted the characters opportunities to change their environment, and their life, which they could make a living through the job and this career gave them another option over drug trafficking or prostitution.
Vik Muniz’s photography utilized trash for aesthetic values initially as most of them went into waste. Nevertheless, by taking pictures of trash pickers, they revealed their struggles and raised audiences’ awareness of reallocating waste. The organization started for this was doubted by the mass on the effectiveness of the environmentally friendly behavior, but after the photos and artworks were displayed in Brazil and even globally, waste allocation and working class people were more present in the media, which as a result brought more attention to the Brazilians. Vik Muniz also gained higher recognition in art internationally.