The Salt of the Earth

"Whether you're familiar with Salgado's name and work or not, 'The Salt of the Earth,' a popular prize-winner at Cannes and Oscar-nominated documentary, will be a revelation." LA Times

“In The Salt of the Earth, Wim Wenders' subject is Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado, who in his first on-screen utterances describes the moment he first saw a massive Brazilian gold mine. The scene — 50,000 laborers climbing ladders. Not a machine anywhere — put him in mind of the building of the pyramids.

“His famously breathtaking black and white photographs accompany this recollection — thousands of laborers staggering under the weight of sacks of soil they're carrying up huge ladders out of the pit. Each man, Salgado explains, had the right to pick one sack to keep — probably full of just dirt, but possibly containing a king's ransom in gold nuggets. So they are aching and exhausted, eyes gleaming with hope.

“That mix of anguish and exultation is typical of the haunting, often era-defining images Salgado has captured in more than three decades as a photojournalist: firefighters battling to extinguish some 500 oil wells aflame in Kuwait after the first Iraq war; drought in Niger in '73; starvation in Ethiopia a decade later. All are events from which the world understandably tries to avert its gaze. Salgado gets us to look by finding humanity in scenes of despair.

“Wenders, hoping to illuminate not just these images but the man who made them, has found an intriguing way to capture both Salgado and his work simultaneously. He shot the photographer talking about his photos, through a screen with those photos projected on it. Salgado couldn't see the camera lens, just his own work. And as he speaks and his eyes dart from detail to detail, it's as if he's reliving the moment he'd captured on film, while peering directly into our eyes. The effect is that he's confiding in the most intimate ways about his art.

“He paid a price for that art. The Salt of the Earth takes pains to explain how Salgado became the world's foremost "social" photographer: schooled in economics, fleeing Brazil's dictatorship, making it his life's work to chronicle the great horrors of our age. "We are a terrible species," he tells the camera.” - NPR


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