The Salt of the Earth

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Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
The Salt of the Earth
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

Sebastiao Salgado has travelled the world, visiting over 100 countries with his ever present and all seeing camera. His most famous photos are of the workers in the vast gold mines called Sierra Pelada in Brazil. But, he has also created massive photograph volumes of people, places and historic events. Legendary filmmaker Wim Wenders follows the man during his globe-trotting journeys, and the director is equal to Salgado and his breathtaking images in “The Salt of the Earth.”

The pairing of visionary world class photographer Sebastiao Salgado with equally visionary and world class filmmaker Wim Wenders (co-directing with the photographer’s son Juliano Salgado) transcends what might have been a good documentary about an extraordinary man. Taking the talent and eye for composition of these two and slamming them together – both men are known to be perfectionists – makes for a magnificent, world-spanning spectacle of both beauty and suffering.

Sebastiao Salgado began his career as an economist, a job that brought him to Africa where he first caught the shutter bug. His obvious talent caused him to abandon economics and strike out as a photographer, a choice that we can be thankful for, seeing his vast body of amazing images from around the world. Salgado’s images and his narration of them make for a powerful documentary subject.

Salgado’s immense bodies of work are a mix of spectacular nature photography and intimate views into the tragedy of human suffering. One of the many fascinating things about the man is that his work is self assigned and epic in scope, like his eight-year long journey through all of South and Central America that resulted in his photographic tome, The Other Americas.

 His other world-hopping works range from a gathering of walruses to the flora and fauna of the Galapagos Islands, and other far-flung locales as the Arctic Circle, Indonesia and India, to the genocides in Rwanda in 1993 and Serbo-Croatia in 1994-1995 and the mass exodus of peoples from Mali, Ethiopia and the Sudan. And these are just the tip of the iceberg that is Sebastiao Salgado’s phenomenal photography.

Salgado, though, is more than just a brilliant photographer. He is also a humanitarian of international stature - he has been UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2001 – and environmentalist. He and his wife Leila Warnick Salgado have taken their farm in Brazil and reclaimed the rainforest in their part of the world since the early 90s. They turned the land into a national reserve and formed Instituto Terra, dedicated to reforestation and conservation and raising public awareness of the environment.

Whoever had the brilliant idea to have Wim Wenders co-direct the documentary on Sebastiao’s life deserves a gold star. The combination of talents and temperaments of two great artists makes for a work of such beauty and depth that is, indeed, breathtaking. I give it an A.

Laura gives "The Salt of the Earth" an A-.
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