Saturday, May 30, 2015

Salt of the Earth *** (2014)

Rated PG-13, 110 Minutes
Sebastio Salgado, the subject of the artful documentary Salt of the Earth, is a Brazilian photographer who's witnessed and documented some of the most tragic and momentous moments of modern history.  Directed by the imaginative German filmmaker Wim Wenders, Salt of the Earth traces the life story of Salgado as he reflects on his experiences and how they changed him. 

Salgado began his career as an economist at the World Bank.  An interest in labor issues spurred an interest in photography and with the help of his wife he traveled all over the world observing workers and the conditions they endured. In the 1980s and 1990s he spent time in Africa covering the famine in Ethiopia and the civil war in Rwanda. He photographed the "ethnic cleansing" in the former Yugoslavia and the oil fires in Kuwait following the first Gulf War in 1991.

Many of these images are devastating.  Some have accussed Salgado of building a career through grotesque displays of Third World suffering. Nothing could be further from the truth.  Salgado strikes me as a deeply sensitive person determined to raise awareness and provoke discussion on why genocide, famine, and war remain are not just "episodes" of history, but persist into the present.

Furthermore, we learn Salgado's own experiences took a toll on his mental health.  After witnessing the aftermath of atrocities in Rwanda and Serbia he began to lose faith in the future.  A renewed passion towards nature and the environment rekindled his spirits.
 He restored his family's farm in Brazil by overseeing the planting of over two million trees, restoring life to a dying landscape.  With the help of his son, Salgado continues to pursue photography in the far corners of the earth.

The Salt of the Earth is a truly cinematic documentary telling an intimate story in grand terms. When viewed on the big screen Salgado's images are nothing less than awe inspiring. 

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