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<em>Salt of the Earth</em>

Sebastião Salgado (Amazonas Images/Sony Pictures Classics)


Salt of the Earth

If you were to make a slideshow about the things that pain man most, you need only borrow from the hundreds of photos that grace this biopic about famed Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado. 

Salgado, renowned for traversing the globe photographing the victims of genocide, famine, and forced migration, sits in front of the camera this time to tell us what was on his mind as he bore witness.

In one photo, tens of thousands of bedraggled Brazilians clamber up a vast gold mine, looking much like ants toting scraps from a discarded lunch. When we realize these weren’t slaves but prospectors, our respect for the photographer grows. He didn’t capture enslavement here, but greed.

In another, an Ethiopian father holds out his limp, dying son after a futile search for medical aid, his famished camel lying nearly lifeless in the distance. When the film reminds us it was government policies—not drought—that led to the Ethiopian famine, Salgado’s photo evokes despair for mankind.

The film is full of these breathless, visually arresting images, and the movie (rated PG-13 for thematic material involving disturbing images of violence, suffering, and nudity) nearly grinds to a halt when Salgado, his soul sickened from the sight of so much suffering at the hands of fellow men, suffers a crisis of his own.

Some would question God, others grow mad and deny His existence. Salgado does neither, and while producer Wim Wenders does little to give us answers to the question of human suffering or even a satisfying conclusion to this biopic, his film does well to show us that life, like Salgado’s photography, is best viewed as a study of sharp contrasts. Just as an eye needs black to see white, for you to fully appreciate the splendor of this earth, you must first witness its squalor.


  • William Peck 1958's picture
    William Peck 1958
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 12:32 pm

    Wow. I'm really looking forward to seeing this . . . kind of.