Film & Multimedia on the theme of waste

In chronological order of their creation (oldest first):

The Gleaners and I (2000, France, Dir. Agnès Varda). This classic film tracks a series of gleaners as they hunt for food, knicknacks, thrown away items in the countryside and the city in France. Today, they would perhaps be called ‘dumpster divers’. In French, Les glaneurs et la glaneuse. The poster for the film hung on the wall near my office when I worked in the Cultural Service of the French Embassy back in 2002 and made me want to see this key film about an activity – gleaning – with a lot of history, which goes back to biblical times and has, in its dumpster diving version today, elicited controversy recently (can edible food/drink thrown away in a public space in a dustbin be taken by others to use? Who is committing the bigger crime? isn’t generating unnecessary waste a crime in the first place?).

The story of stuff (2007, in English) This 20mn movie explains in a simple way why it is we produce so much waste.

Wall-E (2008, USA, Dir. Andrew Stanton) is a 2008 American computer-animated science-fiction comedy film produced by Pixar and released by Walt Disney Pictures. Directed by Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo), the story follows a robot named WALL-E, designed to clean up an abandoned, waste-strewn Earth far in the distant future.

Waste Land (2010, UK/Brazil, Dir. Lucy Walker, Prod. Ferdinand. Meirelles). Moving documentary about the power of art and how it impacts and tells the story of the lives of those working around the world’s biggest landfill, Jardim Gramacho, behind the Cristo Redentor statue in Rio, with soundtrack by Moby. Those working in the site have their portrait made by the artist. Jardim Gramacho closed in June 2012.

Supertrash (2013, France, Dir. Martin Esposito). Visually arresting, if self-obsessed and intellectually lacking documentary about a year spent living on a landfill site near Cannes (in French).

– The Pepenadores project in Mexico (2013). This was a joint project between Ashoka, the world’s largest social entrepreneur network, Danone and local organisations in Mexico with the objective to improve the collection and sorting of recyclable waste and the working conditions of the ‘pepenadores’ or waste collectors there. Unfortunately, the former link I had from Ashoka no longer exists, and the only link I could find is this 2014 one, the other which Ashoka links to, disappointingly, is to a promotional video for Danone’s brand of bottled water linked to the project (another environmental hot topic) which smells heavily of greenwashing to me.

Pimp my… trash cart? TED talk by graffiti artist Mundano in October 2014, about Brazil’s trash collectors and how a project using art has helped them gain better recognition worldwide.

Can Blenders go to heaven? (Kommen Rührgeräte in den Himmel? in German, 2016, dir. Reinhard Günzler). Moving film about a young design student who falls in love with her RG28 orange GDR blender (a legendary object for many who grew up in the GDR) at a flea market, and how she embarks on an investigation into our relationship with objects. A whimsical exploration of how the objects we live with have lost their soul – as well as the often lost and exploited souls who make them – in our throwaway mass consumption culture. See my Linked in review of the film I saw in German soon after it came out in 2016, in a cute Berlin arthouse cinema with 2 other spectators.

Worthing Pier litter bin found washed up in Germany (June 2020) – a funny BBC news story relating how a vandalised dustbin in Worthing, East Sussex (UK) was found over six months later on the German island of Borkum, in Niedersachsen, NE Germany, and turned into a garden feature.