Beautiful, harrowing, traumatising and uplifting, the new Wim Wenders film, The Salt of the Earth, only really deals in extreme emotions. The Oscar nominated documentary focusses on famous social and environmental photographer, Sebastião Salgado. Co-directed with Sebastião’s son, Juliano, Wenders’ reverence for his subject is clear, but so is the sheer beauty and horrific power of the Brazilian’s photography.
In The Salt of the Earth, Sebastião tells his story through his black and white photos along with location filming. He gave up his lucrative job as an economist with the World Bank to pursue his passion for photography. His early interest was in documenting the lives of ordinary workers before first hand experience of famine, war and plight in Africa changed the focus of his work. Sebastião became determined to document the suffering of others, spending long periods away from his family.
Quite understandably he reached a point where he could no longer carry-on with what he was doing. The sheer horrors he witnessed as a passive spectator left a deep cloud over him, and Sebastião returned with his family to his father’s farm. There he re-connected with nature and started replanting the decimated forest, also beginning to photograph nature in all its magnificence. The Salt of the Earth is both beautiful and heartbreaking; a perfect tribute to a person who has dedicated his life to publicise the plight of others.
The Salt of the Earth is out in cinemas on Friday.