The first weekend of Miami-Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival came to a close for me with the screening of The Salt of the Earth, Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribiero Salgado’s Oscar-nominated documentary on the life of world-renowned Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado. Everything I’ve read about the film hinted a tough sit so I decided to preface the screening with a nice brunch with my pals and fellow travelers Juan Barquin and Ruben Rosario at a quaint little Argentinean bakery in the area. A heavy breakfast and two Café Con Leches later, I joined them at O Cinema Miami Beach for the third straight day of festival screenings. The following is an excerpt from my review of the film, which I’ll post when the film opens at the Miami Beach Cinematheque next month.
Awe-inspiring doesn’t begin to do justice to the experience of watching Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribiero Salgado’s The Salt of the Earth. With its stunning, often unnerving black & white imagery, this deeply powerful career-retrospective on the life and works of Brazilian social photographer Sebastião Salgado serves as a document of humanity’s capacity for both, barbarism and beauty. This is a rare documentary whose full impact can only be measured when watched on a big screen. But as memorable as the images are, it’s the stories behind the images, narrated by Salgado himself, that really leave the biggest impact.
Over the course of the next forty years, Salgado’s interest in capturing the different facets of humanity—from its best to its absolute worst—took him from South America to Africa to the Middle East, over 100 countries in all. And Wenders’, who co-directed the film with Salgado’s son Juliano Ribiero, spends the majority of the film’s running time showing the audience these powerful photographs while having Salgado speak about his experiences. Although this is a simple conceit—think a feature length motion photo essay—it’s nevertheless effective thanks to Salgado’s deeply thoughtful, informative and even philosophical commentary. His words of wisdom, along with Laurent Petitgand’s chilling score, go a long way to driving home the messages seen in the images.
Next up: Hot Girls Wanted on Miami Beach