Magazine article New Internationalist

[Wasteland]

Magazine article New Internationalist

[Wasteland]

Article excerpt

In recent years a new documentary genre has emerged. Its creators share a worldwide subject-matter. The men, women, and children in these films live on, and make their livelihood from, the garbage dump.

Wasteland is meticulously structured. Beautifully edited scenes, stitched seamlessly with a minimal, well-written commentary, hang together like gems on a string. But it's the tone that is most striking. Everything in Wasteland drips with irony. One woman who has lived at the dump for years complains that too many people are moving in. 'All I get are leftovers,' she says. Right from the opening scene we hear that this stinking mountain of waste, outside the Romanian city of Cluj and inhabited by a Rom or Gypsy community, is called 'Dallas'.

The people of Dallas work at the modern occupation of recycling. Their goal is to separate the valuable materials, such as metal, paper, and plastic from the vegetable and animal offal destined to rot as compost. Children run, fight, and work everywhere on the site. They are often the first to leap onto arriving trucks, raking, dragging, and picking the best materials before others can wade in. Some of the best fun comes from chasing the rats. They also work at night. Amazingly, families make a living at this, reselling their day's salvage to local scrap dealers. But, they worry, will the local authorities arrive some day with eviction notices and bulldozers to run them out?

Most of the children attend school, a real achievement for squatter and refugee children anywhere. …

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