The salt of the earth

The salt of the earth is a documentary-portrait of Sebastião Salgado’s many years spent traveling the globe. Partly directed by his son, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, who followed his father on some of his trips. Later, German director Wim Wenders interviewed Sebastião. Stunningly, Sebastião was an economist before he switched his career to photojournalism in 1973. With him and his son we meet tribes like the Yali people of New Guinea, where the men have what looks like a bamboo extending the penis. Or the Zo’e of the Brazilian Amazonia, who have wooden plugs piercing their bottom lips. He also goes to the Arctic to take photos of walruses. But most of the photos are of displaced populations. Troubling pictures of children dying of starvation. The Rwandan and Congolese genocides, and others. Sebastião Salgado’s photos are breathtaking. They show us a world we have all heard exists, through the news, but now we have no choice than to face the truth of “man’s inhumanity to man”. Photos (all in black and white) about workers around the world, including beautiful shots of the workers of the Serra Pelada gold mine, and a series of photos called Genesis is a showcase of his talent and his humanity. Now, with his wife, Leila, he has worked on the restoration of a small part of the Atlantic forest in Brazil, and have created Instituto Terra (, dedicated to reforestation, conservation and environmental education.

And the Oscar went to… The salt of the earth was nominated as Documentary feature, along with Finding Vivian Maier, about another photographer. Both films lost to CitizenFour, a documentary about Edward Snowden and the NSA leaks.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

The salt of the earth

Directed by:
Juliano Ribeiro Salgado
and Wim Wenders
Screenplay by:
Juliano Ribeiro Salgado
Wim Wenders
David Rosier
Camille Delafon
110 min.
Rated Parental Guidance
In French, English,
and Portuguese
with English subtitles.

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