Wim Wenders & Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, the Salt of the Earth

Screen International, December 12, 2014 | Go to article overview

Wim Wenders & Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, the Salt of the Earth


Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado tell Elbert Wyche how they had to beat their own egos on documentary The Salt of the Earth.

The Salt of the Earth examines the life and work of the renowned Brazilian photographer and environmentalist Sebastiao Salgado through interviews with the man himself and narration provided by the film's co-directors, Wim Wenders and Salgado's son, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado.

The two took differing approaches to their subject: Wenders was keen to showcase Salgado's work through interviews, while the younger Salgado, a Paris-based writer-director, chose to follow his father on his epic journey around the world on his acclaimed Genesis project, photographing remote people and places untouched by modern life.

They initially shot separately. "Juliano and I could have each made beautiful films," says Wenders. "But we realised if we forgot who shot what and treated it all as one, we could make a film that would be better than the films we would have done separately."

While the concept of co-directing seemed the right approach, its execution proved more problematic. "We fought for quite a while and edited separately," Wenders explains. "Juliano was doing his journeys and I was doing my interviews."

The two men had to get to a place where they were able to edit each other's footage. "That is a difficult process because as a director to let somebody cut your stuff is the pits," admits Wenders. "You have to overcome a lot of pride and some ego trips in order to accept it."

'To let somebody cut your stuff is the pits. You have to overcome a lot of pride'Wim Wenders

Salgado adds: "Collaborating with someone else, even if it's one of the great film-makers, is very difficult. Luckily for me, it was a learning process. It has been an amazing collaboration."

The two considered structuring the film with no narration, but ultimately decided their subject was too rich and the material too deep to go without it. "We felt nobody was going to be able to feel what only a voice could deliver," says Wenders. "Or in this case, that only two voices could deliver. Then we had to figure out how to do a film with two voices."

Wenders would provide the first round of narration with the younger Salgado providing the next. …

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