Day nineteen: The Salt of The Earth (March, 28)

Usually, when I talk about movies, I start from my own involvment with it. What called my attention, what I loved or not about it, the presence of a narrative that don't let get away. So, it was a pleasant surprise see a well known cineast as Wim Wenders begins his journey through Sebastião Salgado's works from the same starting point: two of Salgado's photos that Wenders has bought and liked a lot.

His own relationship with the art of Sebastião Salgado is the reason of the Oscar nominated documentary The Salt of The Earth, co-directed by Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, Sebastião's older son.

This is not an usual documentary, and I reveled in that aspect during the whole movie. From the first scene, tears become to my eyes, and they took a permanent residence there until the final credits, when I looked at my another friend Rodrigo (PInheiros) in amazement. 

Documentaries are not my favorite ones. However, I don't know if it is because I always chose them carefully or for the friends that lead me to the theater to see this sort of movies  (I seldom watch to documentaries alone, contrary to what happens with fictional productions), but I have a nice experience with docs, such that I question my lack of entusiasm to see more of the kind. 

Nevertheless, I must say that what enchanted most in Wenders and Juliano's movie is how different he is from other documentaries. First, it is not only about Sebastião Salgado, or about his work as a photografer (one of the main protagonists), but it is with Sebastião Salgado. For long parts in the movie, both wonderful artists, seated side by side, look at photos, and Salgado narrates the images for Wenders and for us. Two masters of images telling about the world through their art.

Mostly in black an white, there are three languages spoken in the movie: english for Wenders and Juliano, mostly French for Salgado, that has spent a long part of his life in Paris, and bits of portuguese. This last one is more frequent at the end, when Sebastião is portraited in his native land, the once Salgado's family farm, now a part of the Instituto Terra project.

I talked so much and didn't say the essencial: the painful, beautiful, horrifying, overwhelming human journey through Salgado's photos. There are a progression, and the theater got more and more silenced at each one. At some point, Rodrigo, in front of the pictures portraying the burning oil in wells in Kwait, said to me: such a tragedy, and still he is able to get a lot of beauty from it. 

It is true. 

And through this essencial truth in his photos we move from human's stupidity, tragedy, violence and amazing beauty. Wenders puts us on a peak of pain and sadness to, at the end, remembers us that, at the same time that it is possible to lose the faith in the human kind, the world is beautiful, resourceful, and there are people that can restore our faith constantly. Like artists do - Wenders with movies, Salgado in pictures -, at the same time that they denounce all the horror that there is in this world, so close or so far, but still all ours, they tell us about the eternal hope for balance, peace and justice in the world.

The Salt of the Earth. Directed by Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and Wim Wenders.
With: Sebastião Salgado, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, Lélia Winick Salgado, Wim Wenders.
Writers: Juliano Ribeiro Salgado,  Wim Wenders, David Rosier and Camille Delafon.
France/Brazil/Italy, 2014, 110 min., Dolby Digital, Color/Black and White (Cinema). 

PS: Although wonderful, I thought that the film was lacking in some parts. Maybe he is so good just for that, but one thing intrigued me. The main protagonist is, as I said before, Salgado's world's view through his pictures. But his personal life is not separated from that - and his son being one of the documentary's director in a point in that sense. At some parts, the movie gets really personal, but some puzzles are missing. The one that I thought more strongly was related to Lélia, Salgado's wife and his love since they were students. In many moments, Wenders, also the narrator in the film, tells us how she was the force behind Salgado's work. For long periods of time during their lives together, they were apart. The whole time I thought what that meant for both, specially for her, raising too kids in a foreign country. Juliano talks a little about that, but Lélia's voice is only heard at the end, about the Instituto Terra project. Probably, that was her own choice, but I thought her voice was absent in the movie.

PPS: Still regarding Lélia, I also thought about 1.000 Times Goodnight, movie from day thirteen.  Both Salgado and Juliette Binoche's character chose to be in the world throught their images, and what a social work they do this way. And, even if I usually don't get stuck on gender matters, I couldn't avoid the feeling that the journey of both photographers, the real and the fictional one, had a very different impact in their familiar lives precisely for their different gender. 

PPPS: Rodrigo and I had a linguistic's class had semester with the main specialist in Zo'é comunity in Brazil. One of the happiest images in the film was the one in the deep bananeira's gree leafs and the natives painted in red. It is an image so beautiful and strong that I actually lamented the picture in black and white (of course we both ran to the book store near by to look at some to Salgado's photographs' books - we were still stuck on the images, as some other customers at the same place).

PPPPS: Ok, I'm not sure about this whole post post post post scriptum thing, but another memory in the movie was one from my teen years. Paris, Texas, 1984; Wings of Desire, 1987; Until the End of the World (Bis ans Ende der Welt, 1991)  were big references to me at the time (and today). My oldest and dear friend Pan used to say to me, at the end of some of Wenders's movies: Wim Wenders and aprendedores (sorry, a quibble for portuguese' speakers only).


  1. One of the things that surprised me most was Salgados's ability to become a part of every place he visits with his camera. Instead of the coldness required of so many photographers, Salgado embraces every new community as if it was his own family. He cries and rejoices with them. In a matter of minutes he's not a stranger anymore.

    1. Beautifully said, Rodrigo! Wenders talks about that, how Salgado can empathize to the people and places. We cried and rejoiced with him, in the way of Wenders telling the story. Two artists in action :)