One Country's Trash

Wasteland

Mary Kaye Schilling reviews a new documentary about the people who comb through Rio de Janeiro’s Jardim Gramacho, the largest landfill in the world, and the artist who captured their portraits:

After shooting at Gramacho all day, [the filmmaker Lucy] Walker and her crew would head into Rio, to eat and drink with the city’s rich, sophisticated elite. “Those people all wanted thingsmore and more! But when we asked the people living in garbage what they wanted, their first response was that they had everything they needed,” says Walker.

“The women could easily have turned to prostitution, the men to crime or drug dealing. They chose garbage, where the only person you hurt is yourself. We fell in love with them, with their dignity. It reminded me of a line in Cool Hand Luke: ‘Sometimes nothin’ can be a real cool hand.’ ”