The Salt of the Earth

Another great recommendation from the Skokie Public Library’s Fall Movie Challenge, The Salt of the Earth introduced me to the photographer SebastiĆ£o Salgado, who traveled the world capturing beautiful images of cultures in every corner of the world.

The beginning covers Salgado’s early life when he left economics and became a photographer, a risky career change for a married man with a young son. His photos are breathtaking and his books show events like the famine in Ethiopia and the war in Bosnia. This Wim Wenders film, contains lots of Salgado’s images as well as his observations.

The last third of the film presents Salgado’s efforts to take his father’s drought-ridden farm and restore it to a forest. The land was parched and most plants and trees had died from poor management. Salgado’s wife, Leila suggested they return the land to how it had been before the farm existed. As wild an idea as that was, knowing little about forestry, the pair began to plant trees. Decades later it’s a rain forest with waterfalls and creeks. This land had looked like Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl. Astounding.

All in all, The Salt of the Earth is a change of pace. There were times when I couldn’t take much more of the photos of famine victims, but there’s plenty of captivating photos that aren’t of such dire situations. So I do recommend The Salt of the Earth.

The Hunger Games

Jennifer Lawrence stars as 'Katniss Everdeen' in THE HUNGER GAMES.

Since the second film in The Hunger Games series is out in China, I thought I’d check out the first film and possibly go to the theater for the second. The Hunger Games stars Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, a strong, brave young woman living in a bleak dystopia. In her country every year two young people are chosen to compete in a brutal competition for survival. Years ago there was an uprising and after it’s put down, the government starts these intimidating games to keep citizens in fear.

When Katniss’ 8 year old sister is chosen, she volunteers to take her place. It’s a rare occurrence that generates a lot of notice. The boy from the district is Peeta, a baker’s son who’s watched Katniss from afar for some time. Their relationship is icy and complex. Katiss and Peeta are taken to the capital city, which reminded me of a high octane Oz. Very sleek and modern in a colorful, yet cold way.

After some training, a make over and opening ceremonies the games begin. Mentors help Katniss and the others but it’s unclear whom to trust. Katniss is a strong woman and expert archer, but her opponents are tough and mostly brutal.

The city folk dress in vibrant colors, while the villagers are in drab grays and blues

The city folk dress in vibrant colors, while the villagers are in drab grays and blues

While Lawrence did a fine job with the role, the story itself left me cold. Many scenes are brutal as characters, who weren’t well drawn to begin with get slaughtered. While I understand the concept of dystopian sci fi and realize that these stories are allegories, I felt there wasn’t a strong message here. Also, the characters lacked development. I never knew as much as I wanted to know about Katniss. I felt I was teased so I would watch the next film. If I’m going to be exposed to people brutally killing each other, I insist on getting more of a reason. My guess is the pay off comes in the final book and that the answer would only satisfy younger viewers and readers, who haven’t seen as much history or as many Orwellian tales.

Terry Gilliam’s Brazil was a much better film in this genre. Watch that (again). The book might be better as Katniss is often on her own in the film. Perhaps the book has a lot of her thoughts.