You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Trash Dance

A short yet satisfying glimpse behind the scenes of waste management that feels like a breath of fresh air in a field that typically leaves people holding their nose.

With: Allison Orr. (English, Spanish dialogue)

An elaborate dance performance involving Austin city garbage trucks serves as an unorthodox excuse to get to know the sanitation workers themselves in “Trash Dance,” a short yet satisfying glimpse behind the scenes of waste management that feels like a breath of fresh air in a field that typically leaves people holding their nose. Buoyed by the wide-eyed goodwill of Allison Orr, the ultra-curious choreographer who arranges a series of ride-alongs through which she can gather inspiration for the big show, this upbeat blend of civic portraiture and arts programming feels ready-made for public television and institutional play.

At first, Orr’s ultra-peppy naivete feels like an odd match for the gruff, blue-collar world she’s chosen for her latest show. Through her Austin-based Forklift Danceworks, the chipper choreographer identifies distinctive professional groups, such as gondoliers and garbage men, and designs custom routines around the movements they already practice as part of their everyday routine. “This lady’s crazy,” the sanitation workers think after she makes her initial pitch to the predominately male, mostly black team, and it’s tempting to agree with them.

Still, it doesn’t take long for this solicitous little white lady to win over her dubious crowd, showing up day after day to learn how they do their jobs, all the while appealing to the latent exhibitionist in each of them. As the trash collectors slowly warm to the idea of performing in front of a crowd, director Andrew Garrison good-humoredly observes how Orr’s girlish middle-class attitudes clash with the pros’ no-nonsense approach to handling society’s unwanted items. After fumbling her way through a few inadvertently condescending questions, Orr emerges with sincere respect for the participants, an attitude clearly shared by this appreciative docu.

“Trash Dance” dedicates its final 15 minutes to showcasing the dance performance itself, though Orr’s vision doesn’t quite translate to the screen: The trucks are too slow, the cameras too far removed from the underlit outdoor stage to do justice to the experience as it was witnessed by the 2,000-plus spectators attending the rain-drenched premiere. However, the film enhances the experience by drawing attention to the professionalism and personalities of the many city employees who participated, to the extent that auds will be looking for the specific contributions of individuals spotlighted along the way.

It all seems like an enormous amount of work for a one-night-only event, and yet the film will no doubt generate enough good publicity and awareness for the city to justify accommodating such an odd on-the-job distraction. The project couldn’t have happened without Austin’s blessing, and as such, it’s not surprising that Garrison avoids the conflict-seeking tone so common among docus. Despite being produced on ultra-modest means, “Trash Dance” feels more humanistic but no less compelling than equivalent reality-TV programming, like a low-intensity episode of “Ice Road Truckers” with a dash of Busby Berkeley thrown in.

Popular on Variety

Trash Dance

Production: A Kit Box Media production. Produced, directed by Andrew Garrison.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Garrison; editor, Angela K. Pires; music supervisor, Dominique Preyer; sound designer, Tom Hammond. Reviewed at SXSW Film Festival (Documentary Spotlight), March 14, 2012. Running time: 67 MIN.

With: With: Allison Orr. (English, Spanish dialogue)

More Film

  • The Courier

    Film Review: 'The Courier'

    You don’t expect subtlety from a movie whose very first second consists of the heroine getting a fist to her face, or whose poster suggests the real “star” is her leather-clad posterior. Still, a bagful o’ hammers might provide exactly the same amount and type of entertainment value as “The Courier.” This stridently dumb action [...]

  • Richard Jewell

    AFI Fest Film Review: Clint Eastwood's 'Richard Jewell'

    Can you recall who was responsible for 1996’s Centennial Olympic Park bombing? Three days after the incident, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (accurately) reported that Richard Jewell, the security guard who discovered a backpack containing three pipe bombs and tipped the police, sparing the lives of innumerable concertgoers, had become the FBI’s main suspect. But was it [...]

  • 'No Safe Spaces' Review: A Doc

    Film Review: 'No Safe Spaces'

    If, like me, you’re an absolutist about the right to free speech, not just the legal letter of it but the stubborn spirit of it (as in: bring on the people I hate the most and let them speak, speak, speak until they’re blue in the face), then when you watch “No Safe Spaces,” a [...]

  • Frozen 2

    ‘Frozen 2’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Walt Disney Animation claims the top spot in spending with “Frozen 2.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $6.29 million through Sunday for 1,157 national ad airings on [...]

  • The Farewell Movie

    'The Farewell's' China Release Delayed

    The long-anticipated release of Awkwafina’s drama “The Farewell” in mainland China has been delayed. The holdup came just two days before the film’s scheduled outing this Friday. The film, about a Chinese American family who hide their aging matriarch’s cancer diagnosis from her, was scheduled to be released in China some four months after its [...]

  • Adam Driver poses for photographers upon

    Film News Roundup: Adam Driver Honored With SFFILM Award

    In today’s film news roundup, Adam Driver is honored, Robocop will be reborn and Hola Mexico Film Festival and The Montalbán Theatre are teaming for a screening series for potential Oscar nominees. HONORS SFFILM has selected Adam Driver as the recipient of the SFFILM award for acting, formerly the Peter J. Owens Award. Driver, who [...]

  • Paul Downs Colaizzo

    'Perfect Nanny' Movie Adaptation Taps 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' Director (EXCLUSIVE)

    Leila Slimani’s critically acclaimed, international bestseller “The Perfect Nanny” — aka “Chanson Douce” — is coming to the big screen. Legendary has closed a deal for Paul Downs Colaizzo to adapt and direct the English-language adaptation. Legendary will produce the pic alongside Pascal Caucheteux of Why Not Productions and Philippe Godeau of Pan-Européenne. The story [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content