The Salt of the Earth Blu-ray Review
They stay with us forever. Raising the flag at Iwo Jima. Lee Harvey Oswald being shot by Jack Ruby. A young woman, her arms raised in despair, kneeling over her dead friend at Kent State. “They” are photographs. A split-second of time captured on film. Sometimes the photographs taken are just dumb luck. The only footage of the first plane hitting one of the towers of the World Trade Center was taken because a camera crew, doing a documentary on New York City firefighters, was shooting a young recruit working in lower Manhattan when the sound of a plane overhead made the photographer raise his camera. Other times the situation presents itself, open to everyone’s interpretation. Then, it’s only the skilled photographer who can capture and explain an event without ever using words. One such photographer is Sebastiao Selgado.
An Academy Award nominee last year for Best Documentary Feature and winner of three awards at the Cannes Film Festival, THE SALT OF THE EARTH intimately tells the story of Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Selgado, a man who gave up a lucrative career in the private sector to pursue his passion of photography. Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Wim Wenders and the subject’s son, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, the film follows the photographer to various shoots, giving the audience a chance to see how he works. In-between assignments he takes time to discuss his career, sharing classic memories and even more classic photographs.
Whether he’s overlooking a Brazilian gold mine, documenting every step taken by over 50,000 laborers daily, capturing the horrible after-effects of a disease riddled community or sharing his images with the indigenous natives of a tribal village, the senior Salgado works with a quiet effort. He does not want to interfere with his subjects…he wants to capture things as they are. As he sees them. The film itself is shot in a similar fashion. The photography is straight ahead with not a lot of flash (and by flash, I mean “over the top”). By super-imposing Salgado’s head discussing his photos over the photographs being discussed, the effect is like being at a showing with the photographer addressing you and those in the gallery.
To me, the highlight of the film shows how, when the photographer originally returned to his home in the Brazilian forest, he was devastated to learn that the land was no longer beautiful, the trees having been harvested and the soil being trampled into worthlessness. Salgado used his money and will to eventually plant over two million trees, eventually restoring the area to its lushness and beauty. It is this segment, one which documents the beauty of life, which is most uplifting. The narration in the film is straight-forward and informative, but again it is the comments made by Sebastiao Salgado that are most informed. If you’ve ever wanted to try photography as a hobby, or if you’re just interested in how one man’s vision can help inform your own, then I highly recommend you check out THE SALT OF THE EARTH.
Video: Presented in its original 1:85.1 aspect ratio, the film’s somber look works as a nod to the style of Salgado’s photography.
Audio: The soundtrack is delivered in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and is delivered clearly. The narration and interviews are cleanly transcribed.
Audio Commentary: Co-directors Wim Wenders and Julian Ribeiro Salgado combine on a brilliant commentary, including both’s personal stories of spending time with the elder Salgado. Nothing is omitted, which makes this a must-listen for true fans.
Looking Back with Wim Wenders and Julian Ribeiro Salgado (11:34): The two discuss how they came to work with each other, their styles and how they came to present the film in an agreed-upon single vision.
Deleted Scenes (40:22): Ten scenes omitted from the final cut, ranging in length from two minutes to ten.