Waste Land

  • Review Date: April 5, 2011
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2010
  • Running Time: 98 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Inspiring documentary portrays the dignity of the poor.
  • Review Date: April 5, 2011
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2010
  • Running Time: 98 minutes

Age(i)

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Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

This film is filled with positive, inspiring themes. Creativity and artistry are seen as life-changing, gratifying, and sustaining. Even in situations of abject poverty and hopelessness, people are able to find dignity, as well as times of joy and satisfaction for hard work. Uniting in a common cause as the "association of pickers" can produce profound benefits for all. And, finally, single individuals willing to devote energy, resources, and time can impact the world, especially when they have the support of others.

Positive role models

The real life people who appear in this film, whether in positions of power or as victims of a poverty-stricken society, are shown to be resilient, committed to positive change, worthy of admiration, and, in some cases, heroic. The film is a reminder that each of us has the capacity to make the world a better place for ourselves and/or others.

Violence

No violence, but some disturbing scenes and subjects. Scenes of poverty: people living in very close quarters, surviving on little food, seeing their children rarely. And sad stories of lost children, illness, and loss.

Sex

Some discussion of prostitution, i.e. "turning tricks." Some sexy costumes are visible in a parade.

Language

A few coarse words sprinkled throughout: "s--t," "bulls--t," "crap," "screwed."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Brief references in conversation to drug dealing, drinking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this documentary explores the challenging lives of incredibly poor people who work in an enormous bleak, smelly landfill outside of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The poverty and hopelessness of the setting are successfully countered, however, by the movie's in-depth portrayal of some of the landfill's residents and some extraordinary people who are committed to helping them. What could be depressing, disturbing, or simply sad (especially for kids not mature enough to discern the complexities of such a situation), is, in fact, uplifting, triumphant, and encourages people to look beneath the surface of victimhood to see the humanity and dignity that lives there. There are references to other options for the landfill workers, which include prostitution, drug dealing and other criminal activity.

Parents say

Kids say

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What's the story?

Vik Muniz, a renowned artist living in New York, journeys to Brazil to "give something back" to the country of his birth and impoverished childhood. He chooses to bring his art to Jardim Gramacho, the world's largest landfill just outside of Rio de Janeiro, in which thousands of workers spend their days (and years) scavenging through Rio's trash for recyclables which they sell to eke out a meager living. Their homes are lean-tos and shacks; the air they breathe is filled with pollutants; the smell is horrific; the work is exhausting and difficult. To Vik's utter amazement, the people he meets are wiser and more resilient than he could have imagined. What began as a vague, altruistic idea becomes a meaningful, transforming life event for Vik, his team, and the residents of "The Garbage Garden."

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Lucy Walker, the director of this documentary, nominated for a 2010 Academy Award, must consider herself  a very lucky filmmaker. Just as Vik Muniz couldn't possibly have known what he would find in his year-long journey to a trash dump, Walker's commitment to make a film about it must have been based simply on trust and instinct. What they found -- the astonishing people and community they encountered -- and what Muniz and his fellow artists were able to accomplish is miraculous and the resulting film is heartbreaking, enlightening, and inspiring all at once.

This movie is one to be shared and will provoke thought and conversation about art, poverty, and an individual's ability to make a difference.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the ability of one man, in this case Vik Muniz, to make a difference in the world. What elements were included in the movie to make Muniz appear like a hero? What do you think was left out? Are there opportunities in your community to "give something back"?

  • What is the message this movie sends about art and creativity? Some think the arts are superfluous -- does this movie make a compelling argument otherwise?

  • What issues did Muniz have to consider when deciding whether or not to

  • do this project? What do you think happened to the artist and the people

  • after filming ended? Did Muniz make responsible decisions in regard to the pickers?

  • What messages does the movie send about the environment and our impact on it?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 24, 2010
DVD release date:April 5, 2011
Cast:Vik Muniz
Director:Lucy Walker
Studio:Almega Projects
Genre:Documentary
Run time:98 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of Waste Land was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent Written byjlstsell March 7, 2012
AGE
13
QUALITY
 

Inspiring Film for Global Awareness

This film is brilliantly done, like all things Vik Muniz. Muniz puts his whole heart into everything he does and his passion is contagious. It is awe-inspiring to see the affect Muniz has on the poverty-stricken lives of these landfill workers. It would be a great film to inspire teens to think about their hands at work in the world. It is a film that is classroom or family appropriate.

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