Film highlights Brazilian "pickers"
A team of undergraduate department representatives screened the film Waste Land, a film about the largest landfill in the world, Jardim Gramacho and the people who worked there on Thursday evening. The event was attended by students as well as Prof. Moises Lino e Silva (IGS).
The film, which first premiered in 2010, follows the story of Vik Muniz, a Brazilian artist who travels to Jardim Gramacho to produce pieces of art about the people who work in the landfill, colloquially known as "pickers." These "pickers" sift through the trash brought to the landfill to find recyclable materials, which are then sold to specialized companies in the recycling industry.
After assessing the situation of the pickers, Muniz worked with the Association of Garbage Pickers at Jardim Gramacho to choose a handful of pickers to be his models, and took their photographs. He then constructed renditions of their portraits with material from the landfill with the assistance of pickers-a process that took over a year.
After his works were finished, Muniz donated the over $250,000 that the pieces earned at auction to the association, which was able to open a learning center for its members.
The film's conclusion also included the news that Jardim Gramacho was going to be closed in 2012 and that the association had spent its last days focused on helping pickers find new places of employment.
One of the main issues the film tried to convey was the conditions in which that the pickers lived. Their village lay on the outskirts of the landfill, bordering on favelas, or Brazilian slums run by drug lords, and massive piles of garbage.
The workers were also largely uneducated and earned roughly 56 Brazilian real (equivalent to $25) per day, a wage that placed them solidly in the lower class of Brazil.
According to Lino e Silva, this situation is not uncommon in what is considered to be a burgeoning Brazilian economy. "These people are lower middle class, but they are not the worst off," he said. He further explained that many in Brazil's lower classes are forced to turn to drug lords for employment, an endeavor that present a host of complications that include arrest and prosecution.
Following the event, Environmental Studies UDR Esther Mann '15 said in an interview with the Justice that she felt the film was important to see because it was a "[combination] of many areas of study at Brandeis" and helped to show how "many of [the programs of study] here at Brandeis are all intertwined."
The screening was co-sponsored by the Latin American and Latino Studies program, the Environmental Studies program and the Fine Arts department, all of which had a different areas of specific interest in the film: for Environmental Studies, the landfill itself; for LALS, the location in Brazil and for FA, Muniz's work.