Metal Maniac

Movie Suggestion XXXIII: The Salt of the Earth



Movie Suggestion XXXIII: The Salt of the Earth


Movie Suggestion XXXIII: The Salt of the Earth


Country: France | Brazil | Italy – 2014


Genre: Documentary, Biography


Directed by: Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, Wim Wenders


Starring: Sebastião Salgado, Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado




“For the last 40 years, the photographer Sebastião Salgado has been travelling through the continents, in the footsteps of an ever-changing humanity. He has witnessed some of the major events of our recent history; international conflicts, starvation and exodus. He is now embarking on the discovery of pristine territories, of wild fauna and flora, and of grandiose landscapes as part of a huge photographic project which is a tribute to the planet’s beauty.” (




“Wim Wenders being Wim Wenders, he has nothing left to prove about movie making. So most of this documentary is simply made by the pictures of Sebastião Salgado, and by close-ups of his face: he is looking at the images (but through the screen at the same time), while telling and explaining to the audience the genesis and the reasons of his work. It is very simple, yes, but at the same time it’s extremely powerful. So powerful that, after a while, I was under the impression that those still b/w images were alive: crowds in the mass scenes seemed to move, people in portraits looked like they were going to turn their heads, and talk.




This movie should be shown in schools. The work of Salgado has testified some of the major (but lesser known) disasters of recent world history, none of which came within ear of the western world – much more interested in the brilliant lives of the fashion victims than in the tragic fate of the casualties of famines and wars.” (




“Leaving Brazil for Paris in the 1960s due to political unrest, Salgado abandoned a comfortable middle-class career in economics for the world of photography, a discipline he knew nothing about. But as Salgado’s first photo clearly demonstrated —an uncannily striking and moody picture of his wife, Lélia Wanick Salgado— the artist was preternaturally gifted with capturing not only a moment and a person but an essence that lingered far beyond one fleeting glimpse.




Salgado’s photography expeditions were more pilgrimages than trips. His restless globetrotting found him abandoning his family for months at a time; with campesinos in rural South America, folk artists in Mexico, impoverished cultures all over Africa and remote indigenous people around the world. Wenders’ coup de maître is a two-way mirror contraption where Salgado sits, recounting the often heartbreaking tales behind the image. And what Wender’s slow-burning and beautiful doc communicates most ardently is the compassion Salgado extends to his subjects, which is seemingly part of the very texture of each photo. Scored by musician composer Laurent Petitgand (who hadn’t worked with Wenders since the ‘90s), the gorgeous score is a standout. Swelling with a low-hum beauty, his music is like an ambient celestial chorus, but one that wisely never tries to drown out the subject.” (




The film employs numerous shots from other documentaries, many of which contain some stunning imagery, so there’s a slight danger of viewers ascribing some of these astonishing scenes to Wenders’ well-honed craft. Still, it’s clear that the film has Wenders’ stamp clearly on it, the framing device that he contributes through the interviews with the artist the true heart of the film.




A visually stunning project, I look forward to another viewing, as jumping back and forth to read subtitles distracted me from lingering on the images themselves. This is a fault of my own dwindling capacity for French comprehension, and isn’t really any fault of the film’s.




As a celebration of the photographic art of one remarkable contributor, The Salt of the Earth is unparalleled. As a definitive examination of Salgado’s life and work, it remains a bit superficial. I’d have liked a bit more spice added to the mix, a sprinkling of the pragmatic to add to the effusive praise. Ultimately, there’s much to admire about the film, and it further solidifies Wenders’ own non-fiction legacy considerably. (



March 9, 2015


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