Monday, March 23, 2015

Movie with Abe: The Salt of the Earth

The Salt of the Earth
Directed by Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and Wim Wenders
Released March 27, 2015

It’s an intriguing idea to document one art form using another. Every artistic style or presentation brings something different to the content which it is showcasing. In theory, film is more advanced than photography, evolving at a later point and adding movement and sound to pictures. In the case of “The Salt of the Earth,” the final 2014 Oscar nominee for Best Documentary to be released theatrically, it is clear that both are equally worthwhile, since presenting noted photographer Sebastiao Selgado’s work gives the added benefit of getting to see, hear, and comprehend the artist whose mannerisms and personality contribute a great deal to effectiveness of his work.

Even just on paper, Selgado’s résumé is an impressive one. Over the course of four decades, Selgado has traveled to multiple continents and numerous countries, embarking on ambitious projects that focus on a central theme but span many cultures and communities. The Brazilian photographer has selected themes such as “Migrations” and “Genesis” that strive to capture and chronicle the history of a place or thing and how it has impacted society. The sheer commitment with which Selgado takes on a years-long self-motivated mission is truly incredible.

What this documentary does is give Selgado a voice, enabling him to comment on a number of his most powerful and well-known photographs, remembering the circumstances in which he took the picture or conceived of the idea to be in a certain location at a certain time. Selgado is a soft-spoken, mild-mannered individual who does not overshadow his work but rather adds just the right amount of contained enthusiasm to each haunting photograph. Often, his pictures are shown in front of him, fading out to reveal Selgado looking at them and taking them in however many years after he took the original photograph.

The directing duo of noted documentarian Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Selgado, the son of the film’s subject, does a superb job of following the elder Selgado and understanding his craft by prompting conversations about his motivations and journeys. For his son, this film presents an unprecedented chance to get to know Selgado, a father defined mostly by legend and long absences during his childhood while on assignment in Africa or Asia. The film begins with some of Selgado’s most affecting work, and it is easy to see just how much this dedicated photographer has contributed both to art history and to the greater notion of shedding light on causes not known to the world.


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