How dignity is brought out in the documentary Waste Land by Lucy Walker

Howdignity is brought out in the documentary Waste Land by Lucy Walker

Thequote “One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure” fitsperfectly in the documentary Waste Land directed by Lucy Walker. Thisfilm revolves around a Brazilian artist Vik Muniz, who travels backto his hometown in Brazil and utilizes garbage to develop artworkthat illustrates the lives of the people who work in the largestlandfill in the world in the outskirt s of Rio de Janeiro(Belldegrun, Daniel, &amp Green, p2). This documentary does not onlytalk about the artwork that is created but depicts in depth the livesof the people who make a living from the garbage. From thedocumentary, dignity can be defined as conduct or a way of livingthat deserves respect. Muniz uses various persons, who make a livingfrom garbage collection to bring out the meaning of dignity.

Theterm dignity has been used in many instances throughout thedocumentary. For instance, women who work on the landfill considertheir job honest and dignified compared to the main option in thisplace, which is prostitution. A good example is Suelem, a key personin the documentary, a single mother who has been working as a pickerfor over ten years. The documentary exposes her way of living, thehouse she lives in and the food she eats which she says “if itdoesn’t kill me then it’s not bad”. She has been able to raiseher kids and keep her dignity by accepting her job as a picker as adignified job compared to prostitution, which many women and girlshave opted for.

Thedocumentary clearly shows that there is a difference between beingdignified and being treated with dignity. According to Addiego, thesociety we live in today tends to treat people of high rank or titlewith a lot of dignity irrespective of how they carry themselves(par.3). On the other hand, people from low classes living a honestlife are dignified but very few people treat them with dignity due totheir social class. In this documentary, people like Valter and Irmaand Zumbi who accept to work on the landfill are leading a veryhonest and dignified life but very few people treat them with dignitydue to their work which is associated with dirt and poverty.Therefore, it can stated that being dignified is living a honest lifeof self-respect while being treated with dignity is the respectbestowed to people of high social ranks irrespective of theirbehavior and way of life.

Thedocumentary depicts a strong relationship between dignity and selfrespect. A character in the documentary by the name Tiao Santos hasbeen a picker most of his lifetime and despite being just a picker heformed an Association of Pickers to enhance their lives and becomesits leader. Tiao in the documentary has been portrayed as a personwho respects himself as a garbage picker and living a life withdignity and emerges a dignified leader with powerful leadershipskills. Suelem is another person in the documentary who highlyrespects herself and ends up living a life full of dignity. Theprostitutes featured in the documentary are portrayed as people withno self respect and hence are not treated with dignity even by thepickers. Elizabeth affirms the relationship between dignity and selfrespect by stating that dignity comes as a result of self respect(par.2).

Fromthe documentary, there are several characters that deserve to betreated with dignity. Catadores such as Tiao, Suelem, Irma, Valterand Zumbi have embraced their job as pickers as honest livingcompared to other options such as drug dealing and prostitution andhence deserve to be treated with dignity. From the documentary, somepeople are more deserving than others. The best example is Suelem,who chooses to live in poverty and raise her kids with a lot ofchallenges rather than enter into prostitution, which many otherwomen have chosen. For eleven, years, this woman has been a pickerand uses the little income she gets to meet her kid’s basic needs.Suelem is a person, who should be treated with a lot of dignity byevery member of the society despite her low social class compared toother people, who earn a living through indecent ways such asprostitution, or most of the rich in the society, who accumulate masswealth through corruption and public fund embezzlement.

Throughthe three-year project by Muniz, Walker has clearly portrayed theconnection between our sense of dignity and what we do to make aliving. If our source of livelihood is honest and makes someone haveself respect then gives us a sense of dignity. According toElizabeth, the way we conduct ourselves in our day-to day activitiesas strive to meet all our needs gives us a sense of dignity (par.4).This is reflected throughout the movie through the lives of thepeople who have embraced garbage picking as a honest way of making aliving. The pickers have a sense of dignity and self respect sincethey value their jobs as a decent and an honest way of making aliving.

WorkscitedAddiegoWalter.`WasteLand` review: Recycler art and self-image,2010. Available:

Belldegrun,Daniel, &amp Green Cities. &quotPicturesof Garbage: Disrupting Flows and Educating the Public.&quot2010.

ElizabethWilson. Thepower of dignity,2009. Available at: