Movie Review – The Salt of the Earth (2014)
This powerful documentary centres on the photographic work of Sebastiao Salgado. This world-renowned photographer has spent his life traveling to the most extreme situations and circumstances in the world, from horrible war zones to famine-stricken locations, photographing the most tragic elements of human existence. Salgado’s work has been hailed as a means to document some of the most troubling situations of humankind in the 20th and 21st centuries. The film also looks at the life of Salgado, and how he reached a breaking point after seeing so much pain and destruction, and how he turned to another method, that of photographing the environment and working to restore rainforest in his native Brazil.
This is truly a powerful documentary, not for the faint of heart. The photos shown on screen were sometimes graphic, troubling, and disturbing. But they are also so vitally important because they capture and document truth and reality of human suffering and the outcomes of war. Salgado was not only a witness to some horrific scenes on this planet, but his photos are a way to bring attention to these problems and try to raise alarm bells for average citizens and individuals across Earth, so we can see the shocking reality and demand that it be stopped.
Salgado’s black and white images are haunting, and the directors of the film, which include Salgado’s son, do a great job of combining narrative with close ups of his photos on the screen, sometimes left on the screen for many seconds so that we can take time to reflect and consider.
Furthermore, Salgado’s work in his native Brazil opens and closes the documentary, bringing it nicely to full circle. As an older individual, Salgado is now working on a project that recognizes the beauty of the environment, and is a worthy next step in his endeavours as a skilled photographer. He is working at his Instituto Terra to help recover Brazilian rainforest and tackle problems of deforestation and erosion in his home country, and his comments in this new work are fascinating, and the video here is fantastic.
Although the documentary sometimes feels long, clocking in at 110 minutes, and is difficult to watch at times, it is important for us to understand and learn. It is through work such as this which can help motivate leaders, and ourselves as individuals, to strive to improve the human condition worldwide.
Overall: 4 stars out of 5 stars.