The Salt of the Earth Blu-ray Review

     Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, AC-3, Dolby, Widescreen, DVD-ROM
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: July 14, 2015
  • Run Time: 90 minutes



            Although Wim Wenders traces the 40-year career of Sebastião Salgado in The Salt of the Earth, and the documentary is co-directed by the photographer’s son, Ribeiro Salgado, much of the film’s focus becomes about the events covered rather than the life of the artist behind the images. This weighs down the content, especially with many of the tragic social situations around the world that Salgado has chosen as his subjects, but any less depth would have been too superficial for the material. Even 110 minutes doesn’t feel like enough time to adequately examine Salgado’s personal background along with his work, though an uplifting final section does help alleviate the somber tone surrounding much of his earlier photography.


            For most of Salgado’s career, he traveled around the world to witness some of the more horrific events in human history. The Brazilian photographer traveled to witness the droughts and famine that wreaked havoc on the populations in areas of Africa, particularly Ethiopia. He witnessed atrocities in Rwanda, and genocide in the Congo, and even his earlier photographs about hardworking men trying their luck at getting rich in a gold mine seem etched in human suffering. Salgado’s gift for capturing these moments show the rich ability for empathy within the artist, which becomes even clearer in hearing him talk about this work and the experiences behind the photographs. Stylistically, Wenders makes this even more engaging by inserting shots of Salgado’s face, layered over the photographs he is discussing, allowing us to see the artist’s expressions as he recalls the experiences captured on film.


            The film, like Salgado’s work, is split up into sections for the documentary. Each segment coincides with the each of the books of photography that he has released over the years, leading up to his latest endeavor. These books include “Other Americas,” “Workers,” “Sahel – The End of the Road,” “Migrations,” “Africa,” and his most recent, “Genesis.” It is within his most recent work that The Salt of the Earth finds respite from the bleak human suffering previously captured, as “Genesis” became a celebration of nature instead. Along with his photography in the Galapagos, Salgado helped to found the Instituto Terra, an organization that helped to save and rebuild a section of the rainforest in his home country of Brazil. This area has now been declared a Private Natural Heritage Reserve, leaving the film on an uplifting note despite the difficult subjects that make up much of the film.


            Even Salgado’s personal life is somewhat tainted by hardship. Despite a longstanding supportive working relationship shared with his wife Leila, their youngest son was born with Down syndrome. Although there is plenty of optimism and joy coming from the discussion of this, it still weighs heavy on the mood of a film already filled with so much misfortune and pain. This is another way that the film is elevated by the personal connection from co-director Juliano. And yet, The Salt of the Earth never really digs too deep into Salgado’s psyche. In many ways, we are able to know much more about the man from his photographs than any biographical information the documentary offers.


            The Blu-ray release of this Academy Award Nominated documentary includes a filmmaker commentary track, as well as a brief featurette with the two directors looking back on the experience of making this film. Additionally, there are a handful of deleted scenes. The one thing absent I would have expected or hoped to find in the extras is a gallery of Salgado’s significant photography, or at least those contained within the film.  



    Entertainment Value: 6/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 8.5/10

    Historical Significance:  8/10

    Special Features: 8/10

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