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Film Review – The Salt of the Earth: A Journey with Sebastiao Salgado


Directed by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado

Runtime: 1hr 45mins

Showing at Cinema Nova from April 9th


The Salt of the Earth is a documentary retrospective, directed by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado (Sebastião Salgado’s son), about Sebastião Salgado’s photographic work spanning over fifty years in more than six continents. Combining documentary footage, archive footage and Salgado’s own photographic work, his career is mapped out presenting the beauty and the horror that he has witnessed throughout.

Selected to compete for the Un Certain Regard award at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Special Prize, and the recipient of the 2014 Cesar Award for Best Documentary, The Salt of the Earth takes the audience on a journey through Salgado’s life, career and lens – guided by both the man himself and his son Juliano. Salgado’s work as a social photographer has led him through major human tragedies where he captured and documented these moments in history such as the genocide in Rwanda and the war in the former Yugoslavia. He also did cultural studies of native tribes in South America, Africa and South East Asia. Salgado’s photographs make up a large portion of the film, intercut with Wenders and Juliano’s footage of him at work and footage of him speaking on significant events in his life, in some parts with his face reflected upon his photographs, which is an interesting technique implemented by Wenders and Juliano.

The film begins with Salgado’s early photographic work observing indigenous people in their native lands, diverse cultures and lifestyles. In the second act, his early observant style is juxtaposed by his later work as a social photographer with Doctor’s Without Borders, in the war torn lands of Ethiopia and bordering regions. There he captured very confronting, graphic images of refugee camps, the famine stricken people that resided within them and the warzones that they had to flee from. His motivation: to show the world, spread social awareness and remind people of the urgency for humanitarian aid in those devastated areas. Salgado returns to Brazil in the third act, overwhelmed by the devastation that he has seen around the world, he develops an interest in nature and wildlife photography, making a transition into environmental activism as a form of paying tribute to the natural world.

This is a stunningly beautiful film that encapsulates the power contained in Salgado’s photography. The Salt of the Earth is a confronting and moving insight into the story of the human condition and the man that documents them.


– Chris Palmer, David Chau