Friday, April 03, 2015
"The Salt of the Earth", the career of Sebastiao Selgado
“The Salt of the Earth”, directed by Juliano Robeiro Salgado and Wim Wenders, is a moving biography of Brazilian photojournalist Sebastiao Selgado.
The film offers an enormous library of otherworldy stills, mostly in black and white, and some super 8 live video of many areas of the developing world, especially those areas most torn by war and famine.
The film opens with a shot of thousands of miners in an open gold mine pit in Brazil, all working for a fortune, climbing over one another around the put in rope ladders. Soon Selgado, now 71 (I think his oldest son is one of the directors) explains that he gave up a career as an economist to become a journalist. His tone reminds one of Werner Herzog. His life was like Anthony Bourdain without the home-cooked food. Besides documenting the work to restore the forests in the Brazilian highlands around his own Drogheda, he travels to most conflict areas of the world, especially Ethiopia, Rwanda and the Congo, as well as Bosnia (where people used to a European standard of living suddenly had nothing). He visits Eskimo tribes in Siberia, and the red-skinned natives in the Amazon, where the women have different kinds of husbands. Also on his wonder list is New Guinea.
There is a lot of nude photography, particularly of native people in starvation. There are scenes of mass camps in Africa, served by Doctors without Borders.
There is also some animal photography, showing gorillas recognizing themselves in mirrors, and a whale’s respect for a visiting boat and crew photographing her. Salgado believes that wild animals will learn to recognize and interact with individual humans whom they perceive as non-threatening.
The official site is here (Sony Pictures Classics).
I saw this film at the AMC Shirlington Theater in Arlington before a small Friday evening audience.