Reviewed by: Semini Pathberiya
Categories: Waste - Consumerism

e-wasteland \ David Fedele
Official trailer

Covered in toxic black fumes and sweat racing from head to toe, boys and young men in the Agbogbloshie slum in Ghana’s capital city, Accra, hammer away at discarded cellphones, computers and refrigerators. The land, including nearby Korle Lagoon, is completely concealed beneath shattered parts and the insides of electronics. While this scene is obviously an e-wasteland to an outsider, to people in Agbogbloshie, this is a gold mine of salvageable metals.

David Fedele, a traveller with a passion for exploration and storytelling, independently funded, directed, filmed and edited this portrayal of the rancorous reality of old electronic goods. Though it is illegal to import e-waste, 200,000 tonnes arrive in Ghana annually under the guise of second hand electronics. These used products, already close to their demise, are broken down, pulled apart and burned to recover metals, which are exported back into the industrial world, leaving Agbogbloshie buried in the remains.

Trudging through this seemingly post-apocalyptic landscape, Fedele peers into this neglected community without narration or a soundtrack. His film presents a brutal reality in which small children clad in flip-flops take a step into their fated future by smashing TVs with rocks and pulling out the mangled wires from its belly. He collects many powerful visuals from this desolate landscape, including black smoke gushing from red fires, lean animals foraging in the trash alongside humans, and the rare moments of laughter that ripple among the dirt-covered youth.   

About 50 million tonnes of e-waste is generated annually around the world, and only a small portion makes its way into Ghana. e-wasteland shines a light on to the flipside and implications of modern materialistic lifestyles. 

e-wasteland, directed by David Fedele, Ghana: Independent, 20 minutes

This documentary was included in our Around the World in 10 Docs map feature in Art & Media, Issue 39.3. Subscribe now to get more reviews in your mailbox!

Reviewer Information

Semini is a graduate of the Environment and Resource Studies program at the University of Waterloo and a former A\J editorial intern.

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