5560644915_c4ae7ca925_bOnly 2 years late, I got around to watching “Waste Land,” a documentary about Brazilian artist Vik Muniz’s exploration and collaboration with a local community that picks recyclable materials from Jardim Gramacho, one of the world’s largest landfills.

One of the most touching parts of the movie for me was when, near to the end, Muniz says the following:

“It could be me. I mean, from the stories these people tell, a lot of them they were low middle class people that for some unfortunate event they just ended up having to go live in the garbage. I was born low middle class household in Brazil; if something had happened to my parents I could be led to a life like that…they just weren’t  very lucky.”

In a society that wants to deem itself “meritocratic,” Muniz’s message is tough to swallow. He believes that, were his life to have taken a different turn, the outcome could have been drastically different. Although I think it’s a relatively straightforward point, his is a strong counter narrative to those who want to insist that, regardless of circumstance, the talented shine and true genius is revealed.