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Sebastiao Salgado: The Salt of the Earth

  • Sebastiao Salgado: The Salt of the Earth
March 26, 2015
Passionate about art, frequent visitor of exhibitions, Widewalls photography specialist and Editor-in-Chief.

Although it premiered last year at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Special Prize of the Un Certain Regard section, the documentary film about the life and work of the Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado, is coming to the US theaters. Titled The Salt Of The Earth, the film opens in New York and Los Angeles on March 27th, and from April 3rd on, it will visit other states as well. Directed by noted German director Wim Wenders and Sebastiao Salgado’s son Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, it was nominated for Best Documentary at the 87th Academy Awards ceremony, after previously winning other prestigious awards, including the César Award – the French equivalent of the Oscar.

Sebastiao Salgado: The Salt of the Earth
Photo by Leila W. Salgado. Courtesy of Leila W. Salgado/Amazonas Images/Sony Pictures Classics

The Visions of Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado

After he got familiar Sebastiao Salgado’s fascinating work in the mid 1980s, of which he owns two prints, Wim Wenders met the man himself in 2009. That lead to a joint journey in which the director followed the photographer to remote corners of the Earth and watched him work. Impressed with Sebastiao Salgado’s persona and remarkable photographs, Wenders came to an idea – to make a documentary about him, even though he did not yet have a clear idea on what the project will look like. Only a while later, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado became the other half of the endeavor, adding a family touch to the whole thing, but also one from a different point of view, visually. This isn’t the only dual value of The Salt of the Earth – the film tells a parallel story of Sebastiao Salgado the photographer and Sebastiao Salgado the man, and how two things often intertwined and inspired each other overtime.

Sebastiao Salgado: The Salt of the Earth
Sebastiao Salgado and WIm Wenders. Photo via

The Genius of Sebastiao Salgado

From his earliest images of Latin American countries and the Serra Pelada mine workers to Genesis, the eight-year-long project exploring our planet’s most beautiful unspoiled places and treasures, Sebastiao Salgado captured the changes of humanity, caused by starvation, international conflicts and exodus. His breathtaking black and white photography leaves a haunting mark on those who see them because of their strong visual impact and great narrative power. Seen on a big cinema screen through The Salt of the Earth, they become even more compelling, giving out the photographer’s remarkable skills and sensibility. Some of the events that Sebastiao Salgado witnessed were very difficult to recover from, like the civil war in Rwanda. After the genocide’s unimaginable horror, he moved back to his homeland Brazil and dedicated his time to reforestation of the land, which turned to be a marvelous success. In The Salt of the Earth, the photographer also talks about his memories, his childhood, the brief economy studies, the exile in France with wife and business partner, Lélia Wanick Salgado and his environmental work.

Sebastiao Salgado: The Salt of the Earth
Screenshot from The Salt of the Earth film

The Salt of the Earth

Left alone in a room with only his photographs, Sebastiao Salgado recalls the memories of making them, revisiting the moments that shaped his life as well. The Salt of the Earth is like a museum guide of his art, coming from the author himself, blended in the mixed artistic visions of the great and colorless Wim Wenders and the colorful Juliano Ribeiro Salgado. Juliano even spent some time on the road with his father in his teenage years, but they were often separated for long periods of time, which broke their bond. The two managed to reconcile during the making of The Salt of the Earth, so the film got yet another valuable significance in the meantime.

Whether you’re familiar with the works of Sebastiao Salgado or not, The Salt of the Earth will definitely be a revelation, a moving visual biography of one of the most significant photographers of our time.

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