Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Salt of the Earth

Last week I saw The Salt of the Earth, a potent documentary about photojournalist Sebastião Salgado, made by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, the photographer's son. Salgado started out as an economist but switched to photography in 1973 at the age of 29. The documentary traces his career & personal life & shows him still at work, travelling all over the world, photographing nature, wildlife & pre-agricultural societies. But it is his powerful photographs of momentous human events that predominate. I loved seeing his cinematic photos of Serra Pelada fill the screen in the beginning of the movie. Even though they are static images, they seem to be in motion. His pictures of burning oil fields in Kuwait are monumental & hallucinatory projected on a movie screen.

A core sequence presents his darkest work, documenting famine in Ethiopia & genocides in Rawanda & Yugoslavia. This part of the film is difficult to watch. Salgado himself became so disgusted by what he witnessed that he basically concluded humans are unredeemable. The film ends with some light, thankfully. Salgado's current projects include an interesting experiment in which he replanted the forest that was once cleared for his family farm in Brazil.

Wim Wenders narrates the film in English, though Salgado speaks mostly in French when interviewed. I attended a matinee at the Embarcadero Cinema & was disheartened that there were only 10 of us in the audience.

§ The Salt of the Earth
A film by
Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado
2014, 109 Mins

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