Watching Modesto resident Mike Glad's movie "Recycled Life" is an epic experience.
Not epic in length, the short documentary runs a scant 38-minutes, but epic in scope. Its inherently dramatic subject matter quickly wrests us from our comfortable, SUV-driving lives and into a world that Glad himself described as "a real-life Hieronymus Bosch painting," referencing the 15th and 16th-century Dutch painter known for his detailed, gruesome depictions of hell.
The Academy Award-nominated documentary, narrated by actor Edward James Olmos, follows the families who forage and live in the Guatemala City garbage dump. Glad was the film's producer, co-writer and still photographer.
The movie will screen in a package along with the three other Oscar nominated shorts (including eventual winner "The Blood of Yingzhou District") at the State Theatre on Sunday and April 1.
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Glad will be present Sunday for a public reception beginning at 2:30 p.m. and stay for a question-and-answer session after the movies screen.
Glad and creative partner and the film's director Leslie Iwerks spent four years working on the project beginning in 2002.
The Guatemala City garbage dump covers a 40-acre ravine and is Latin America's largest landfill. For more than 60 years, families have lived and worked by scavenging at the dump.
Glad and Iwerks interviewed these dump dwellers, called "guajeros," along with people who are trying to help through various organizations and Guatemala City officials.
Still, for all its unspeakable images of poverty and seeming hopelessness, "Recycled Life" is ultimately an uplifting story. It speaks volumes about the human spirit and our ability, if given the chance, to make real and positive changes.
For a first-time producer, Glad's project is seamlessly professional helped by smooth narration by Olmos and a haunting score by Mader.
The power of "Recycled Life" comes not from its sadness, but its conviction that the world can be better, if only we have the will and resources to make it so.
"Recylced Life" will show as part of a tour featuring all the Oscar-nominated films packaged together. Together the films run 2 hours and 13 minutes, total.
Also screening will be the Oscar-winning short, "The Blood of Yingzhou District" about Chinese AIDs orphans; "Rehearsing a Dream," about talented high school students who spend a week working with leading figures from the world of the performing arts; and "Two Hands," about pianist Leon Fleisher, who lost the use of his right hand in 1965.
WHAT: Screening of the four Oscar-nominated short films
WHEN: 2:30 p.m. reception, 3:30 p.m. films Sunday; films only 3 and 7 p.m. April 1
WHERE: State Theatre, 1307 J St., Modesto
TICKETS: $6 matinee, $8 evening