The Salt of the Earth was a fascinating and inspiring look at a great photographer. There is beauty, truth, human spirit, destruction, power and more in the photos in this documentary.
Documentaries with subtitles are always difficult the first go round as there is so much to take in. This is especially true when your subject is a photographer and so there are stunning pictures to look at. You, invariably, never have the time to take it all in.
I found the film a great introduction to the life and works of Sebastião Salgado but lacked either the time to truly delve into the soul and thoughts of the man or the inclination to do so. It is co-directed by his son and by German film-maker Wim Wenders and I couldn't help but feel that, despite this, it was a rather cold effort. You would think a son would maybe focus more on the clearly loving and strong bond between his mother and Sebastião. I also felt that some esoteric, poetic, Werner Herzog like voiceover would've helped the piece soar to a place a little transplendent. Here it's the photos themselves that provide the poetry, majesty and complexity of humanity and they do it effortlessly. Sebastião Salgado has lead a complex and fascinating life.
The subject matter could definitely have used an entire series rather than the constraints of a single film, as I left with more and more questions. There are the political and social incidents, movements and changes that he captured with his lens; there are the logistics of doing such a thing and travelling the world; there is the personal story of him, his wife and his son; there is the art, the nature of photography, his opinions and a whole lot more to cover in a relatively short space of time. There is also his environmental work which is powerful, incredible and a lesson for all of us. So much to cover and sadly so little time to go deep into any of them.
Also, of course, as a European film it is slow and drifting, painfully chronological and almost, at points, repetitive. Sometimes it would've helped to have had more background to certain incidents he was covering and slightly more of his world view and philosophy. If it sounds as if I am being down on the film, I am not, it was wonderful enough that it has whetted my appetite to check out more of Sebastião Salgado's work and to do further reading.
Despite all this though it is an important work and a beautiful introduction to an incredible and intrepid artist.
This is definitely a film I'll be picking up and studying again.