This is really hard for me to write in that the film is both successful at coming across as it means to and completely worthless to my artistic sensibilities. The film follows the exploits of Vik Muniz, who makes art from things that he finds in garbage dump which he then photographs and sells so further his humanitarian exploits. The image of what consumerism crates as a byproduct is a striking image. Ideally, through cutting to with the various accolades and recognitions that Muniz has gotten from various world figures with an obvious point to make you the audience question why it is that they have never heard of him before. The problem with the film is that most of the questions that that the film poses are all too easily answered. In this case that he is this important person.
The next “important” section that defies education is creating the merry band of misfits and making them sympathetic. We start this process by creating the story of how Muniz was shot in order to begin his journey with the funds he received. We meet his friends that pretty much live out of the dumpster who believe in Muniz’s cause. This to me is where the logic breaks down, as one of the first attempts to legitimate their actions is to have them quote Machiavelli and somehow tie the idea of the oppressive role of government. The problem is that as is the popular case, most people who quote the staunch Republican (referring to the idea of centralized government not the current political party) and his writings, you know everything that he wrote outside of The Prince, were trying to separate religious rule of the masses. The reason for the brevity for said work is because it was written with a broken arm after being beaten by the then current regime. The largest fault of a film trying to dispel consumer culture is that even the protagonists fall victim to mass produced knowledge and understanding of ideas and can never reach perspective of what they are doing because they never seem to grasp the context of what they are saying.
There is absolutely nothing definitive of art and how it reaches and affects people, but in terms of informing people about the environment, nothing substantive that is ever reached in the film, and it seems content at a very simple formula of stating a problem and then trying to show people that are somehow standing up to it followed by the inevitable fail. The world is still in chaos and the trash problem is still an issue. I guess the extreme nature of what he is doing compounded with an almost martyr message of the person that died trying to make a difference, when the lifestyle that he glamorizing is not really sustainable. I don’t imagine that many people went to the local landfill to live off of what people threw away, so hopefully they maybe started to recycle more rather than add to that mess, but I have to wonder if they more moderate approach of showing someone that lived a more reasonable life that maybe grew their own food in a garden and didn’t buy more things than they needed.
At the summation of my rant, I am struggling to find why I find this film so vile and misinformed. All I hear about as I watched it was one long complaint, and yet I feel the guilt and compelling to further explain and amend my arguments. I understand very well the predicaments of Brazil, as I was in a very long term relationship with a Brazilian doctor and realize that opportunities are scarce and that there is a need to be unique and to stand out by being extreme, so I do not fault Muniz for his intentions, but in terms of his message as it is portrayed in the film, I find systemic problems that become perpetuated. In the thread of this person making it as an outsider, we miss that there are so many struggling artists, good intentioned and otherwise around the world that this obviously can’t be the solution for the world to be like him. If philanthropy is really his goal, wouldn’t he have been better off, at least statistically, working and donating money to those endeavors. We can’t all drop out of society to play with garbage, so taking a step back from an interesting lifestyle, I just feel that the message is convoluted and off base. It almost proclaims that the only way to fix the systems is to be outside of it so that we can see ourselves as faultless. The problem is not only the alienation of people in the society that are not going to defect but that the directionless approach to helping others that misses the simple ideology of help yourself first so that you are stable to help others and instead demonizes the system through propagandized ideologies that leaves his followers educated not by their own understanding and research but by an almost cult like understanding of facts and issues.