We live in an eclectic village of community activists. The spirit of postive change is in the fresh air and in the Gatineau River water that flow through town. One example of that magic is the Wakefield International Film Festival (WIFF), the 'little festival that thought big', as local media have come to call it in lauding the world class quality of its programming and execution. WIFF is led by two passionate champions of documentaries and independent filmmaking, Brenda and Robert Rooney, who run the Festival with help of the dynamic and hilarious local troupe, Theatre Wakefield. It is a festival that inspires change.
We are deeply honoured to be sponsoring the showing at WIFF on Sunday, February 13, 2011 of 'Waste Land' - an utterly mesmerizing film about the depths and heights of life and humanity on this Earth in the presence of something we all know, though perhaps not well enough: garbage. Renowned Brazilian-born, Brooklyn-based artist Vik Muniz takes us on a journey to the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro and the world's largest landfill, Jardim Gramacho. He finds there a thriving community of charismatic 'catadores' or pickers of recyclable materials - not garbage, recyclable materials. Remember that, it's important.
Muniz works with the pickers to create a form of art that literally oozes emotion, meaning and transformative energy. He photographs certain pickers in symbolic poses, and they then work together to recreate these images as large-scale collages out of materials from the landfill. As the garbage is transformed into art, so are the pickers and their often painful lives. As Tiao Santos, the President of the pickers community association reflects upon seeing his own completed installation, "I never imagined I would become a work of art."
This is a film of striking moments, but one that really hit me was the profound environmental activism the catadores practice and promote as they lobby hard to be recognized by the reluctant local government as a viable part of the recycling industry. They are picking through garbage to make a living - and doing so with great dignity despite being among the poorest people in the world - and they have also created a well-organized, compassionate movement committed to reducing landfill waste and giving garbage new life. Not garbage, recyclable materials.
The pickers have an intimate, practical knowledge of plastic we could only dream of. Santos describes the difference between polyethylene terephthalate and polypropylene by the sound each makes when crushed. And it's certainly the first time I've heard PVC (polyvinyl chloride) - one of the most hazardous consumer product plastic chemicals ever created - referred to as 'filet mignon'.
'Waste Land' has already won lots of awards - Sundance, Berlin, Amsterdam, Dallas, Vancouver... and it is shortlisted for the Academy Awards. If you have the chance to see it, jump at that chance. It will change the way you look at your own garbage. And you will have the privilege of meeting and learning from a group of beautiful, noble, WONDERful human beings who are creating meaningful change with waste.
Jay Sinha, Co-Owner