Two documentaries on the lives of garbage pickers
Muniz's giving act is more personal and sustained than a benefit concert, but the difference is one of quality not kind. He repeatedly stresses the project as a joint effort in making art of garbage, but the real magic consists of turning garbage into something priced as art, a conversion which undoubtedly helps the pickers but also solidifies Muniz's privileged position in the world marketplace. In view of this, it's worth pointing out that many other artists have adapted scavenger aesthetics as a means of dissenting from patronage systems (art or otherwise). In 1965, for instance, Brazilian director Glauber Rocha issued his "Aesthetic of Hunger" manifesto to define Third Cinema's difference. Some years later filmmakers associated with the Tropicália movement went a step further and called for an "Aesthetics of Garbage." Needless to say, they envisioned something different than Waste Land's sympathetic detachment. It's not a fair comparison perhaps, but days after seeing the film I'm still bothered by the way it maintains a wry distance from Muniz's earnest struggle for moral clarity while itself indulging in artsy portraiture of the pickers at work (scored to death by Moby). In any case, magnificent unsigned art grows out of landfill closer to home at the Albany Bulb. There's a documentary about that too — Bum's Paradise (2003).
TRASHED: TWO FILMS ABOUT GARBAGE
Scrappers, Thurs/15, 7:30 p.m.; Waste Land, Sun/18, 2 p.m., $8
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission, S.F.