The Salt of the Earth is a documentary that follows the life of world’s famous photographer Sebastião Salgado who specializes in social documentary. The documentary’s opening credit made me confused, thinking this is a documentation about slavery (thank God it isn’t!). After we see the first photograph of rural workers holding a gun in a mine, the narrator then introduced Sebastião Salgado and trace back to his beginning. Born in a small city in Brazil, Salgado’s life story is interesting. He left his home for further study and graduated with a degree in Economics. He married his girlfriend and moved to Paris while still working as an economist for some big company. During his missions to Africa, Salgado made a life-changing decision to pursue his passion in black and white photography and concentrates on social issues, mostly from third world countries (hence the title of the film)
The movie features several of Salgado’s popular pictures, which to be honest can get quite graphic. It is artistic and tragic at the same time and definitely not for the faint-hearted. There are pictures about little kids in Africa to massive oil well in Kuwait – each comes with their own stories. For those who like to observe, Salgado is a fascinating character with intriguing thoughts and outlook of the world. His time on the field, sometimes risking his life, are some of my favourite scenes. Halfway through, however, you realised even though Salgado had made name for himself, he has to be the loneliest person in the world. Imagine witnessing that many catastrophes and not be depressed? And just when the thought occurs to you, Wim Wenders’ direction also decided to take a turn. Or to make this review mysterious, Sebastião Salgado decided to change his life direction.
The Salt of the Earth is an engaging documentary with interesting character, nice editing and thought-provoking images but yet it lacks something. The movie have no conclusion and you might feel disjointed for a while (I know I was). However, to be fair this is a documentary based on a real person, and sometimes there are no conclusion in real life – things just happened.
Here Are Some of Sebastião Salgado’s Pictures: