Duration: 110 minutes (1 hour 50 minutes)
IMDB Rating: 8.4
Genre: Documentary, Biography, History
Directed By: Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, Wim Wenders
A documentary based on the lifelong works of the French photographer Sebastião Salgado, ‘The Salt Of The Earth’ is a masterpiece in terms of the visual connect it forms with the viewer-aptly backed by a heart wrenching narrative. Accolades like the ‘Audience Award’ at the 2014 San Sebastian International Film Festival and its nomination for the ‘Best Documentary’ category at the 87th Academy Awards are indicative of the enthralling piece of cinematography etched out by co-directors Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, the son of the protagonist of the documentary.
A genesis of the works of four decades worth of clicking photographs of humans who are faced with lamentable conditions, the documentary showcases an aspect of photography by Sebastião that very few have ventured into and have invested their time in; an avenue which elucidates human mortality and suffering. The emotional baggage that each photograph brings with it is what makes the documentary so gripping, sending the viewer in a continual state of musing.
The plot is based on the transition in the life of Sebastião and how he matured as a photographer; empathetic and inquisitive. The initial parts of the documentary deals with the personal life of the photographer and how he was inclined towards photography vis a vis the experiences which he indulged in. Progressing into the documentary, we gain an insight of the various projects that Sebastião was involved in- an ethnographic study of the tribes in South America, followed by the grievous scenes of the Ethiopian famine and the horrors of the Rwandan genocide during the 1990’s. Exposure to the atrocities that our compatriots faced via the lens of Sebastião’s camera reminds us as to how blessed we are in the scheme of things and how superficial and trivial are so called ‘problems’ actually are.
Having spent time living in the same conditions as that of the affected people, the protagonist recites the horrific scenes that he witnessed while in Ethiopia. It is one thing to hear about it but viewing the same vis a vis photographs is a different proposition altogether. Sebastião via his works was able to generate significant public empathy which is one of the predominant reasons why the United Nations were pressured to intervene.
The documentary draws to a conclusion with a feeling of helplessness being a stimulus to what the protagonist observes once he returns back to Brazil; large scale deforestation meant that the expansive forests that once formed the backdrop of his initial photographs were now reduced to barren lands. The spirit of inquisition rubs off on the viewer, making one question the rationality of our whims. Seldom do we come across documentaries that really leave an imprint on your conscience, ‘The Salt Of The Earth’ is one such documentary that will widen your ability to reason and will instill within one, a sense of maturity of comradery.