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The Salt of the Earth

There is a narrative line that runs through Wim Wenders’ latest documentary, that is decidedly a bit shaky. Selfish fathers, and abandoned sons–the “work” taking precedence above all. The story does come full circle, which is nice–it’s the getting there that seems a bit unexplored. But you know what? It doesn’t really matter. I don’t believe that “The Salt of the Earth” was superior enough to deserve the Oscar that it was nominated for, earlier this year, in the Best Documentary Feature category (all five, btw, have now been reviewed on the blog). However, it’s not only a damn strong film, but it contains the most harrowing and unforgettable photographs of any documentary I’ve witnessed in the last year. It’s powerful stuff, and not for the weak of heart. Mr. Wenders has delivered a powerful chronicle, of how humans treat humans. And disregard them too.

Sebastiao Salgado is a world-renowned photographer, who has been snapping some of the most beautiful, as well as some of the most horrifying, photos you will ever witness. Multiple Oscar-nominated director Wim Wenders, embarks on a world-spanning journey with Salgado, and documents both the breathtaking and the unthinkable, throughout his rewarding, and life-changing, odyssey. Also along for the jaunt, co-director Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, the photographer’s now-adult son.

You really should see “The Salt of the Earth, if only for the fact that it will make most of us appreciate, the relatively “conflict-free” lives we lead. You will experience some glorious shots of nature-carved landscapes, animals in the wild, and peoples that barely have any contact with the “civilized” world. But you will also view glimpses of the worst crimes of humanity. Starving, sick, and dying children, men being forced into slave labor, and body-and-soul breaking exoduses of families, brought on by religious and political conflict. It was rather easy for all the aforementioned familial drama to get “lost” in this, but enough of it is maintained to produce the desired effect. But the pictures Salgado takes, are what you’ll never be able to get out of your head. The desire to turn away will be great. Don’t do it. As much as I hate to use the ‘I’ word, Mr. Wenders work is of great importance. This film must be seen.

Grade:  A-

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