Waste Land is a 2010 British-Brazilian documentary film directed by Lucy Walker. The film chronicles artist Vik Muniz, who travels to the world's largest landfill, Jardim Gramacho outside Rio de Janeiro, to collaborate with a lively group of catadores of recyclable materials, who find a way to the most prestigious auction house in London via the surprising transformation of refuse into contemporary art. The catadores work in a co-operative founded and led by Sebastião Carlos Dos Santos, the ACAMJG, or Association of Pickers of Jardim Gramacho, who dreamed of improving life for his community. The money created by the selling of the artworks was given back to the catadores and the ACAMJG, as well as the prize money from the film awards, to help the catadores and their community.
The film premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and went on to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, as well as win over 50 other film awards including the International Documentary Association's Best Documentary Award, which was handed to director Lucy Walker inside a garbage bag.
The documentary was produced by Angus Aynsley and Hank Levine, executive produced by Fernando Meirelles, co-directed by João Jardim and Karen Harley, co-produced by Peter Martin, and photographed by Dudu Miranda. The music was created by Moby, who is a friend and frequent collaborator of Walker.
The film was distributed by Arthouse Films in the US, Entertainment One in Canada, Hopscotch Films in Australia and New Zealand, and Midas Filmes in its native Portugal.
Waste Land received unanimously positive reviews as "an uplifting portrait of the power of art and the dignity of the human spirit."
On the Rotten Tomatoes aggregator site, 100% of critics gave the film positive ("certified fresh") reviews, based on 68 reviews, earning the film a Golden Tomato Award for the best-reviewed film of the year, and the only documentary to be 100% positively rated for that year.
This film was invited to screen at festivals and special events around the world, and received over 50 awards.
The Portuguese-language title is Lixo Extraordinário literally meaning "extraordinary garbage", which is a pun referring to the labels on Brazilian sanitation trucks containing special waste. The Spanish-language title is El Reino de la Basura, literally "the kingdom of garbage". The French distributors Eurozoom chose to keep the English title "Waste Land" in France with the subtitle "de la Poubelle au Musée" (From the Trash to the Museum).