Waste Land Documentary Discussion Questions

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

'Waste Land' is a 2010 documentary film by directors Lucy Walker, Karen Harley, and João Jardim about people who survive by picking through the world's largest landfill. This resource contains discussion questions about this film.

Waste Land

What careers do your students hope to pursue in your future? Imagine growing up with the knowledge that you would spend your entire life picking through garbage. Lucy Walker, Karen Harley, and João Jardim's Waste Land is a documentary film about the life of the pickers at Jardim Gramacho, the world's largest landfill, near Rio de Janeiro. The following questions support classroom discussion about this film.


The questions in this section introduce Vic Muniz, the pickers, and the project.

  • Who is Vic Muniz? How did Muniz turn a negative situation into a positive life changer? What can you learn from his example?
  • Where did Muniz get his inspiration to work with garbage? What is his primary motivation for this project? Would you be willing to live among garbage for a few years for a project like this?
  • What preconceived ideas does Muniz have about the people who work at the landfill? What surprises Muniz about the landfill and the people? How are their dreams for their children and community similar to those of American parents?
  • Why is the work of a picker important? How do the pickers feel about the work they do? Why is it important to have pride in your work?


This section contains questions about the living and working conditions of the pickers.

  • What kinds of unusual things have been found in the landfill? How does the political and economic climate affect what ends up in the landfill? What could a picker learn about you from picking through your garbage?
  • Describe the living conditions around Jardim Gramacho. Where do the pickers get their food? What are some safety issues related to unsanitary conditions? What are some hygiene practices you take for granted?
  • What are some of the personal circumstances that led the pickers to the landfill? What other options are available to them? Given these limited options, what would you choose?
  • What are the physical dangers of working in the landfill? How do the landfill workers support each other? Why is community important?

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account