Refuge in Refuse

“If I’d known what it was like, I wouldn’t have come here,” a man says, speaking of the United States. His wife interjects, “You wouldn’t have met me, my love.” He repeats: “I wouldn’t have come here.” His wife admits, “It’s the same for me.” They go quietly together. One word is visible on his t-shirt: “hope.” This is from the documentary Scrappers, which isn’t about immigration, per se, but it is a portrait of dispossession. Here is a man who makes his livelihood, such as it is, from 12-hour days spent scavenging scrap metal on the streets of Chicago. He’s not alone. Another man calls it “easy money.” He says it’s like going fishing: While he’s scrapping, all his problems seem to disappear. The two men never meet. But the film — patient, humane, committed — stays with them for several years, even when their metal suddenly isn’t worth the cost of melting down because the economy itself is melting down. It’s the potent first part of “Trashed: Two Films About Garbage.” The second is the Oscar-nominated Waste Land, about turning garbage into art in the world’s biggest dump, near Rio de Janeiro. (It plays Sunday at 2 p.m.). The films begin an essential dialogue on the relationship between waste and wealth.
Thu., Sept. 15, 7:30 p.m., 2011

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