Waste Land Opens MoMA’s Brazilian Film Festival

Lucy Walker‘s Waste Land, a documentary film about artist Vik Muniz’s extraordinary project of creating monumental portraits from junk in the world’s largest garbage dump, thrilled New Yorkers on the opening night of Premiere Brazil! at MoMA last week. A collaboration between the Museum of Modern Art and the Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival, the all-Brazilian program highlights the New York premiere of ten feature films and four shorts, as well as the screening of two classic films.

A standout in the festival, Waste Land takes us on a journey from the artist’s Brooklyn studio to Jardim Gramacho on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, where we meet a rag-tag group of trash pickers that scrape out a daily living by collecting and selling recyclable materials. Muniz cast the pickers for the recreation of classical art portraits made from the junk they gather. In the process, we find out how they ended up in the dump and discover their aspirations to get out. It’s a moving story about how art can actually change people’s lives — not only the lives of the subjects, but the existence of the artist, as well.

Other highlights in the film program, which runs through July 29, include Dzi Croquettes, a documentary about a dance and theater group that confronted the Brazilian dictatorship to advance sexual liberation and promote gay rights in the 1970s and ’80s, and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (E Proibido Fumar), a romantic comedy about the chain-smoking Baby, a guitar teacher who lives at home with her mother and hooks up with her scruffy, new neighbor — a man she thinks has a suspicious past.

Click through below for more images and the trailer for Waste Land, and see MoMA’s calendar of screenings here.

Lixo extraordinário (Waste Land). 2010. Great Britain/ Brazil. Directed by Lucy Walker. Co-directed by João Jardim, Karen Harley. Theatrical release slated for fall 2010, Arthouse Films. Photograph by Vik Muniz, courtesy of Vik Muniz Studio.