My good friend John Kazaklis and I have wanted to see this movie for quite a while so when it hit Netflix, we pounced on it. John works for Trash Mountain Project and I’ve done a ton of volunteer work for them as well. My experience in trash dump communities is Mexico and the Philippines and some of the favelas’s in southern Brazil. John has a much deeper experience that he will talk about in a few paragraphs.
From a story standpoint – Trash is set in and around the trash dump communities of Rio de Janerio. Three teenage boys stumble upon a wallet that contains clues that will uncover major police and political corruption. They know something is up immediately because the police NEVER comes to the trash dump. EVER. This puts in motion one heck of a mystery and race against the clock. Along the way they get some help from two missionaries living in the dump – played by Martin Sheen and Rooney Mara.
It’s a great story, told with great story and top-shelf acting from relatively unknown teenagers. The boys are flawless in their depiction of trash dump kids who are generally good at heart but always looking for some extra money as well.
As far as the authenticity of the trash dump life – director Stephen Daldry nails it as he has on so many of his other films (Billy Elliot, The Hours, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close). There isn’t a lot he misses. The birds. The colors. The smoke of the burning trash. The junk shops set up on the outskirts of the dump. The juxtaposition of both beauty and trash. The community of kids and women. The puke-brown liquid that seems to leak everywhere. The pecking order of the dump. The entire subculture around the trash dumps. It’s all there. Not blatantly pointed out with clumsy dialogue but with vivid images and incredible cinematography.
Daldry also manages to capture the joy and humor in these places. It is the poorest of the poor but they are also some of the most joyous people I’ve ever met. Quick to smile and laugh but cautious of anything from the government.
It’s rated R for language and suspense but I do recommend the movie, giving it 4 stars.
Having spent two summers in Brazil during my college years, I was able to recollect many things shown in TRASH that I had experienced working in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. I love how the director, Stephen Daldry, really layered the plot to show a different aspects of the impoverished world in Brazil and in other Latin American countries. One thing that stood out to me was how Daldry did not hesitate to convey how racism is still so prevalent in Latin America. Even in a country like Brazil, where you see the mixing of races at its finest, the movie shows how being brown or black is equivalent to being poor and how those with money and power tend to be light-skinned.
We also see glimpses of two different worlds in this movie. You have the lowest rung of society being displayed through Luis and Gabriel: living around a landfill, finding food in dumpsters, children working at the landfill, rampant disease and crime, etc. On the other end of the spectrum, you find gated communities, housemaids, massive villas and mansions, and lighter skin. You find these two different worlds colliding because of a wallet found in the landfill containing information that could uncover a huge case of bureaucratic corruption. And there it is. Daldry is showing contrasting worlds of daily life in Brazil through showing how corrupt politicians and the police can be.
You go through a rollercoaster of a ride watching Trash that is full of emotion and action, while at the same getting a true depiction of two societies within a country that are virtually unknown to each other. The director does an amazing job and his work reminds me of Alejandro Iñárritu’s work with Babel and Amores Perros.
Take the opportunity to watch this and learn what life is like in countries where there are huge disparities in society.
Huge thank you to John for taking the time to share his thoughts on the movie! You can catch up with John on his blog that features some of his amazing photographs.