The Salt of the Earth
2014, PG-13, 110 min. Directed by Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, Wim Wenders.
REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., May 1, 2015
For the past 40 years, Sebastião Salgado has been documenting human suffering and global conflicts, using his camera to record the heartbreak, the horror, and the toil of human existence in this modern world. From Serra Pelada, the massive gold mine in Brazil, to the burning oil fields of Kuwait after the first Gulf War, the photojournalist has captured indelible images. Initially educated as an economist, Salgado started taking photographs on his trips to Africa in the Sixties, before abandoning that career to shoot photos full time. The most compelling sections of The Salt of the Earth are when co-director Wim Wenders lets Salgado narrate the stories behind his most iconic photographs. And while Wenders and Juliano Salgado (Sebastião's son) sidestep the controversy of aestheticizing trauma and despair, there's no question that Salgado is a genius behind the camera. The years of globe-trotting to the most horrific places on Earth catch up with Salgado, and he felt that his soul was dying. Looking for a new project, he and his wife Léila (an integral creative partner whose minimal screen time in the film is a little troubling) come up with Genesis, documenting unblemished areas of the world, shooting wildlife and landscapes seemingly untouched since the dawn of time. The film also shows how the couple started the Instituto Terra, a successful reforestation project in his home country of Brazil. It's a remarkable life and a remarkable film, with images that linger long after you leave the theatre. The Salt of the Earth travels to the heart of darkness, but thankfully comes out on the other side and leaves you with a hopefulness that no matter what kind of madness and repression happen in the world, there is still hope for humanity.