The Salt of the Earth is a 2014 internationally co-produced biographical documentary film directed by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado. It portrays the works of Salgado's father, the Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado.
The film was selected to compete in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Special Prize. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary at the 87th Academy Awards. It won the 2014 Audience Award at the San Sebastián International Film Festival and the 2015 Audience Award at the Tromsø International Film Festival. It also won the César Award for Best Documentary Film at the 40th César Awards.
Salgado's work explored natural environments and the humans who inhabit them. His black and white photographs illuminated how the environment and humans are exploited to maximize profit for the global economic market.
The film follows Salgado as he began a career as an economist with his wife, Lélia, at his side. During a stint in Paris, Lélia bought a camera, and Salgado discovered his love of photography.
Following the timeline of his life, the film uses his own photos and videos to illustrate Salgado's life and work beginning with his exile from Brazil and his subsequent transition from economist to artist and explorer Salgado began working full time as a photographer in 1973, first news photography then documentary style, with Lelia supporting him.
The film follows him as he travels around South America, including the countries neighboring his native Brazil, spending time among and photographing native tribes, living lives not much touched by the modern world.
Co-directed by Salgado's son, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, the film contains recollections from childhood of a father who was absent much of the time and the times he accompanied his father on trips to discover who Salgado was beyond his childhood conception.
Next, Salgado traveled to the Sehel region of Africa, show in unflinching and heartbreaking video and photographs. Salgado referred to the famine in Ethiopia as a problem with sharing, not just a natural disaster. He documented the largest ever refugee camps and the innumerable deaths that occurred there, from hunger, cholera, and cold.
His work covering famine in Africa brought worldwide attention to the region and the underlying causes.
The film follows 40 years of Salgado's work from South America, to Africa, Europe, the Arctic, and back home to Brazil focusing international conflicts, starvation and exodus and natural landscapes in decline.
The Salt of the Earth received largely positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film reports a 96% approval rating with an average rating of 8/10 based on 77 reviews. The consensus states: "While the work it honors may pose thorny ethical questions that Salt of the Earth neglects to answer, it remains a shattering, thought-provoking testament to Sebastião Salgado's career." On Metacritic, the film has an 83/100 rating based on 29 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".