Wednesday, 22 July 2015

REVIEW - THE SALT OF THE EARTH (JULIANO RIBEIRO SALGADO AND WIM WENDERS)


...and then a documentary comes along, a very good documentary, and reminds you of how little your work matters. Your work? Insignificant. My work - my terse, trite encapsulation of the film? Irrelevant. I am just another of Sebastiao Salgado's subjects, only not half as interesting. The Salt of the Earth is an exhibition of this great photographer, whose profile could surely never match his talent. With input from Sebastiao himself, and direction both from his son, Juliano, and from master documentarian Wim Wenders, the exhibition becomes a story no less specific than the pictures he took, yet so much more expansive. Dutifully, and gratifyingly, those pictures form a large part of what has been compiled here, to the extent that the live-action footage, both contemporary and archival, feels like high-quality filler. And it is, since we work through the career of this extraordinary artist from one project to the next, accompanied by his evocative recollections; The Salt of the Earth is an astoundingly evocative film, and an appropriately reverential tribute to the work of a great man. In establishing so firm a connection between itself and its subject, Salgado and Wenders' film also becomes a tribute to what these photographs pay tribute to: only the hardest of hearts would fail to appreciate the depth of the humanism and the environmentalism on display, and to acknowledge the connection that they have. Salgado and Wenders employ a light touch that's typical of the latter director, forming a cheerful rapport with the viewer that fully enables one's empathy as the film takes an inevitable turn toward tragedy. An inherently hopeful film, it only formulates its argument in favour of hope by chronicling the intensity of human cruelty and suffering. An immensely emotional experience.