Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. France/Brazil/Italy, 2014. Decia Films, Amazonas Images, Solares Fondazione delle arti, Region Ile-de-France, Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Serviçio Social do Comércio, Secretaria de Estado de Cultura do Espirito Santo. Screenplay by Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, David Rosier. Cinematography by Hugo Barbier, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado. Produced by David Rosier. Music by Laurent Petitgrand. Film Editing by Maxine Goedicke, Rob Myers. Academy Awards 2014. Independent Spirit Awards 2014. Online Film Critics Awards 2014.
Wim Wenders was so deeply moved by a photograph he spied on a gallery wall, of workers climbing out of a giant Brazilian gold mine, that he inquired after its author and explored more of his work. Said artist was Sebastiao Salgado, whose powerful documents are hard-hitting, powerful representations of his decades-long career travelling the world and recording the human atrocities he has witnessed. Salgado began the pursuit of his passion for photography after years working as an economist, taking the leap into a more personal profession with the support of his wife Lelia who continues to be overseer and arranger of his long voyages alone with his camera. What we witness in this fascinating documentary is a man whose pictures are more than just creating light and shadow out of misery and sorrow: famines, wars, isolated indigenous populations on just about every continent are arranged for projects that lay bare the challenging lives of the majority of the world’s population, unseating the comfort of those who live more privileged lives seeing his images on walls or computer screens, but Salgado himself is not merely a provocateur. His experience as an economist gives more than just a passing visual interest in the things he sees and there is no sense of professional remove from his subjects; this dedication led to him nearly abandoning his work for good after a trip to Rwanda, where the aftermath of horrific genocide in the mid-nineties saw him decide to end his travels, feeling that humanity was hopeless and his work would lead to his madness. What followed that is as magically inspiring as the previous scenes were engaging, a film whose journey through so impressive and admirable a career ends on the high note of watching someone truly make a difference, while the experience of watching the film so expertly and poignantly assembled by Wenders convinces you that you yourself have gone on a voyage around the globe as well.