Metascore
78

Generally favorable reviews - based on 20 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 19 out of 20
  2. Negative: 0 out of 20
  1. Reviewed by: Stephen Holden
    Oct 28, 2010
    90
    "We are not pickers of garbage; we are pickers of recyclable materials," Tião, an impoverished Brazilian catadore, or trash picker, declares to a talk-show host in Lucy Walker's inspiring documentary Waste Land.
  2. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Jan 14, 2011
    88
    The only waste would be if people didn't go see it.
  3. Reviewed by: Steven Rea
    Dec 7, 2010
    88
    It's not a very good title, Waste Land - this isn't a bleak film, at all - but just about everything else in Lucy Walker's documentary works, and illuminates.
  4. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Dec 12, 2010
    83
    Despite his street cred, Muniz comes across as way too effete for these laborerers, many of whom have harrowing life stories to tell. But his intention to have them re-create photographic images of themselves out of garbage, while it may not pass muster as high art, has the effect of raising their spirits.
  5. Reviewed by: Scott Tobias
    Oct 28, 2010
    83
    Though narrower in scope and lacking the first-person angle, Waste Land resembles Agnès Varda's great 2000 documentary "The Gleaners & I," particularly in its awe of tough, creative, hard-working people who live on the margins.
  6. Reviewed by: Nev Pierce
    Feb 21, 2011
    80
    Compelling and vivid, it's another fine piece of work from an up-and-coming talent.
  7. Reviewed by: Michelle Orange
    Dec 12, 2010
    80
    A dump is a dump, but it's immediately clear that these are working people who are making the best of their options and who have built a shared camaraderie out of that determination.
  8. Reviewed by: Steve Ramos
    Dec 12, 2010
    80
    It's important to note that Waste Land is not a landscape film about the landfill itself. Instead, Walker, who also premiered a second documentary at Sundance, "Countdown To Zero," about the threat of nuclear proliferation, shows that Waste Land is ultimately about the pickers, Tiaõ, Zumbi, Suelem among others, who rise up through the power of their own artistic accomplishments.
  9. Reviewed by: Eric Hynes
    Oct 26, 2010
    80
    A fascinating look at the complex intersections of art and charity, reality and perception.
  10. Reviewed by: John DeFore
    Oct 24, 2010
    80
    Overall, though, the project brings enough good into this rough corner of the world that viewers can walk out with honest cause to be hopeful for its inhabitants.
  11. Reviewed by: Peter Debruge
    Oct 24, 2010
    80
    Lucy Walker's Waste Land takes his (Vik Muniz) project one step deeper by actually getting to know Muniz's models, which brings a compelling human-interest dimension to the sort of art documentary otherwise better suited for TV.
  12. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Feb 9, 2011
    75
    It is miserable work, even after they grow accustomed to the smell. But it is useful work, and I have been thinking much about the happiness to be found by work that is honest and valuable.
  13. Reviewed by: V.A. Musetto
    Dec 12, 2010
    75
    Walker's breezy film turns Muniz into a folk hero. And who am I to argue?
  14. Reviewed by: Walter Addiego
    Dec 12, 2010
    75
    Waste Land is a film about recycling, but it's far more intriguing than the average eco-documentary.
  15. Reviewed by: Wesley Morris
    Dec 12, 2010
    75
    Waste Land is just what the film's website says it is: "stirring evidence of the transformative power of art and the alchemy of the human spirit."
  16. 75
    No matter who you side with here, Waste Land – the title should come with a question mark – is a fascinating adventure, populated by memorable characters.
  17. Reviewed by: Joe Williams
    Dec 10, 2010
    75
    While we await the definitive documentary about the glut of garbage, Waste Land reduces this global catastrophe to touchingly human scale.
  18. Reviewed by: Stephanie Merry
    Dec 7, 2010
    75
    Spend some time there, thanks to the documentary Waste Land, and you start to get the sense that, amid the trash, something really is blooming.
  19. Reviewed by: J.R. Jones
    Feb 10, 2011
    70
    The movie might have amounted to no more than a sunny eco-parable, but it begins to bite harder when the catadores, captivated by their sudden importance, face the unhappy prospect of returning to their previous existence.
  20. Reviewed by: Joshua Rothkopf
    Oct 26, 2010
    60
    It probably would have helped if Walker (who credits two other codirectors) had chosen just one of those avenues for deeper study; her doc has a vertiginous way of feeling arty and ephemeral at one moment, humane and maybe too earthbound the next.
User Score
8.7

Universal acclaim- based on 13 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 2
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 2
  3. Negative: 0 out of 2
  1. Dec 28, 2010
    10
    This is the best film that I have seen this year. Put away your fears that this is a guilt-driven movie. It is realistic and optimistic. The takeaway: when you see yourself as you really are, it transforms you in a second. Full Review »
  2. Jul 8, 2012
    8
    A documentary about the international acclaimed Brazilian artist Vik Muniz, who reconstructs photos using garbage materials from Jardim Gramacho, the world Full Review »