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While most people watching the 83rd Academy Awards tonight will be focused on Natalie Portman, her baby bump and whether she takes home the Oscar for Black Swan, I’ll be watching out for the nominees for Best Art Direction and Best Documentary. In particular, the feature-length documentary Waste Land. Co-directors João Jardim and Karen Harley have created a moving look at the power of art to transform people’s lives and the environment.

Waste Land - artist Vik Muniz at Jardim Gramacho

Artist Vik Muniz in front of Jarim Gramacho

Waste Land follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home 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 band of “catadores”—  pickers of recyclable materials.

Waste Land - Marat Sebastiao - Pictures of Garbage

The documentary Waste Land

Muniz’s objective was to “paint” the catadores with garbage. However, his collaboration with these inspiring characters reveals both the dignity and despair of the catadores as they begin to re-imagine their lives.”

Waste Land - Pictures of Garbage - Portraits of Irma and Magna

Waste Land - The Pickers

If Waste Land isn’t in theaters in your city, it will be on Netflix soon.

To listen to an interview with Waste Land co-director Karen Harley, visit NPR’s Talk of the Nation. For a lecture on creation by artist Vik Muniz, visit TED.

[All photography by Vik Muniz, courtesy of Vik Muniz Studio]

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Art, Design Inspiration

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