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Titre du Film
A film produced and directed by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado
The film (title) depicts a man, photographer Sebastiao Salgado, through the eyes of two people : his son, film director Juliano Ribeiro Salgado who tries to get to know a father who was away from home for many years. And Wim Wenders, one of the great film-makers of our time, a photographer and an admirer of Salgado’s work.
Sebastião Salgado studied economics and learned his trade at the MAGNUM photography agency in the mid-seventies where he worked for a decade. Together with his wife Lelia Wanick Salgado, he then established his own agency. He became one of the few photographers able to create an agency that handled his work exclusively just as he is one of the few photographers to agree long term contracts with leading international titles : New-York Times, Sunday Magazine, Rolling Stone, Paris Match, El Pais, Folha de Sao Paulo, Nieuwer Revue…
His two major works demonstrate his training as an economist as well as his own concerns :
Workers (1993) shows the final traces of manual labour in modern « industry » ; Exodus (2000) depicts the situation of millions of refugees throughout the world in their very different contexts. He has spent over a decade working on each of these topics , whilst addressing global issues.
A great reporter, Salgado is also an artist exhibited in the most prestigious museums and galeries of the world. The ambition of his work, the considerable technical skill of his images which often tackle very difficult subjects and also his exceptional personal qualities have attracted the praise and recognition of the most demanding critics.
In March 2013, Salgado will launch , Genesis, his latest project.. It started in 2002 : in contrast to his previous work, Genesis will contain a conventional natural landscape and communities which exist in harmony with their environment. The exhibition will start in London and tour the world with stopovers in Paris, Rio, Berlin and Milan.
THE DIRECTOR’s NOTE
I always met my Dad between trips. It seems to me that as soon as he left his native Brazil, he was always on the move whilst pausing a month or two in the same place to spend some time with his family. His photographs, apart from being his work as a reporter, were for me pictures of his life far away through which I could follow his travels and discover his outlook on the world.
For ten years, he concentrated on Genesis as his final project. Afterwards, he would not work in such a way again – or so he said. It was probably this thought of his that unlocked in me a desire to follow him – this time for real. At this point in my life as a director, filming him in many different locations became a way of finding my place in his life – maybe he felt the same way towards me – building together a father-and-son relationship at the same time as I tried to capture on film the way he took photographs of places and people.
These journeys with him were also for me the occasion to try to understand the way he had lived until now. The way he could – or couldn’t – reconcile his family life and his life as a reporter.
How he could have a family without losing it whilst touring the world. More importantly though, I want to understand why he chose to put himself into extremely testing situations, both psychologically and physically, being a war reporter as well as a photographer capturing starvation, illness, exploitation of man by man. How and in what way did such an experience change him ?
There will be direct or indirect answers to some of these questions. It is a precious gift to share these fabulous adventures and privileged moments around his work. Meeting Wim Wenders for this film goes far beyond the opportunity of making a coproduction with this outstanding artist. In many ways, this is the basis of the film without which it would have been quite difficult for me to make this project on my father come true.
A documentary film forces us to accept an unknown journey where one is never certain to ever reach one’s goal. Let’s face it : each film is an adventure that has to be constructed and written. All the more so when a film-maker films his own father : he is faced with an additional challenge. We therefore needed this « third man » to make a film on a father and his son, both strong characters, and so reduce the risk of harm to either in the process. Wim Wenders knows and admires Sebastiao’s work, and moreover he loves photography , this being his first passion. The fact that he wished to take part in this project thereby gifting us his talent and his insight is a second wonderful present given to Shade and Light.
PRODUCERS’s INTENTION NOTE
For a producer, it is a wonderful opportunity to bring together in one film two men with such impressive work : Sebastião Salgado and Wim Wenders. And it is even more promising to have as a contributor a talented film director, Salgado’s son himself.
In the early nineties, Salgado’s photographs shaped our teenage years through their power : Salgado as a go-between brought back pictures of a world we could not even imagine. As grown-ups, all these pictures still reveal situations, faces and places too remote for our eyes. These photographs remain as intense as ever and this intensity seems to come both from the style as well as from the subject-matter chosen until the present. Exodus, an exhibition which started in 2000, portrays millions of people around the world whose lives are upset and thrown into disorder by political, ideological,economic and climatic conditions in such numbers and so severely that their circumstances become unreal to us and so invisible to our eyes.
Against this background, Genesis, Sebastiao Salgado’s most recent project, seems to depart from his work as a reporter. Once again, he explores regions where no-one travels, and he photographs what no-one has seen only this time he goes beyond his previous work, in search of a « mythical » time - his origins. This latest project whets our appetite to follow in Salgado’s footsteps to better understand this very moment in his life as a man and photographer.
By making this film, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado provides us with an exceptional double possibility : we can get closer to the photographer through the intimate eye of his son ; and we can also penetrate into the artist’s interior and get into the space reserved for action photography , usually forbidden on account of its fragility. He was the only one who could accompany his father despite mutual reservations and in spite of practical difficulties, the risk of long periods of waiting, apparent missed opportunities as well as the many frustrations and fears inherent to such a project.
By its very nature, his project required right from the start considerable trust : at the same time both a challenge and the foundation on which to build this formidable cinematographic adventure.
It was an unheard-of piece of luck that Wim Wenders happened to be interested in this project and that he was willing and sufficiently intrigued to co-produce this film with Juliano Ribeiro Salgado ! He was the right man in the right place: a film director with a passion for photography. Who else could grasp the unique character of Sebastião Salgado’s work and form with him a relationship of equals ? We loved his films so much and are so pleased that Wim Wenders is the one who is able to add to the film its reflections on the world, on the concept of the father figure and quite simply, on the photograph as an art form. At a time when the constant flood of images makes them meld into one another, we are particularly proud and eager to let three men speak who show us their outlook on the world, which is for each and everyone the outcome of a long-standing adventure whose signature we can recognize today at first glance. There is always a person hidden behind a picture, a fact we tend to forget in this day and age and his presence is recalled by Shade and Light by inviting us to share the journey of Sebastião, Juliano and Wim.
A son sets out to find his father, a great photographer. He accompanies him on his final project in the most untouched places of the modern world to discover an ancestral state of nature, mythical creatures and human communities isolated from the rest of the world.
Together they visit the Zo’e Indian tribes, at the heart of the Amazon, in Siberia on Wrangel Island, with the Papoos of Irian Jaya and in luxuriant swamps of Pantanal in Brazil.
Througought his journeys, Juliano films Sebastião « watching » the world. He observes him forming a connection with people of a completely alien background and finding his place among them.
Juliano asks his father about his work which became a way of life with the result that Sebastião was away from his wife Lelia – also his assistant - and his two sons : Juliano, now 38, and Rodrigo, now 31.
During the four journeys spent together, Juliano questions Sebastião about his concerns and interests : the very harsh situations and human suffering which his father was routinely faced for forty years. He asks him about the inspiration for his last project, Genesis, which leads him today to another extreme : that of the most tranquille and « untouched » places in the world.
Despite the tense and hesitant relationship between father and son, both gradually manage to rediscover the lost bond of their relationship.
A film director examines the work of a photographer, his political and aesthetic choices, what he fails to capture and what he creates.
Salgado’s unique work and lifestyle explain why Wim Wenders decided to focus on his first passion and the basis of his work as a film-maker : photography. In Paris, they met for several weeks to speak about photographs , which contain both a minor and a major story. Their encounter is that of two men who have devoted their lives to images simultaneously reflecting a view on reality, anecdotes and the perception of two individuals.
For Wim Wenders, this is an opportunity to think freely about the representation of reality and perhaps also on the impossibility to escape fiction. To what extent does a photoreporter portray reality ? To what extent is a picture a revisited patchwork of an observer’s eye ? Is representation possible without fiction ?
To compose this portrait, the film invites us to a « watching game » : thanks to Juliano filming his father confronted with reality and Wim Wenders focusing on Sebastiao’s pictures as a kaleidoscope of real life events, we can grasp one man’s view of the world.
This group will end its journey in Brazil, at Aimores village where Sebastiao was born and grew up.
Back to his birthplace, Sebastiao tells us the story of his family of simple farmers, of poverty and violence in Brazil in the fourties, thus revealing experiences that were to shape his personality and – later – his profession. .
In his last projects as a political activist and as a photographer, the environment and ecology are constant themes. After spending forty years depicting hardship and injustice in the world, Sebastiao devotes his last project, Genesis, to the beauty of the Earth.
With his wife Lelia, Sebastiao bought back the family farm to carry out a major ecological project. On land used up by human greed and left almost barren there grows today a forest of some two million trees.
To rediscover Nature is for Sebastiao more than mere solace in a suffering world, it is his answer to the difficulty men encounter when trying to live together on this earth.
Some Comments on the Production
1 – Notes on the method of co-direction
The two directors have complementary approaches to the portrayal of Sebastião Salgado. Juliano Ribeiro Salgado sets out to discover this absent father and understand what motivated his choices in life by getting as close as possible to his work as a photo-jounalist. Wim Wenders faces Sebastião around a set of photographs which he selected himself, debating with Salgado his choice of subject matter and his style as well as manner in which his outlook has changed over the years.
These two approaches will create contrasting passages that enrich the film and give it a rhythm of its own. The film shall be made in Berlin by Wim Wenders’ team under the supervision of Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado.
A - Films
1 – Juliano’s travels with his father :
The Amazone, Wrangell Island (Siberia), Irin Jaya (West Papua), Pantanal (Brazil).
Over two years ago, Juliano decided to travel with his father during his work on Genesis.
Juliano meets Sebastiao who has lived for a month among an isolated Indian tribe at the heart of the Amazon. Whilst one discovers the Zoe’s « primitive » lifestyle, Juliano is amazed to see how easily Sebastiao gets on with his hosts. This experience convinces Juliano that these photostories are an opportunity to establish a dialogue with his father.
Juliano follows Sebastiao and his assistant, Jacques, into the farthest reaches of Papua .
Sebastiao’s intention is to depict a culture threatened with extinction as a result of the activities of evangelical Protestant missionaries. Day after day Juliano watches how Sebastiao becomes part of a quite different community in the magnificent setting of a tropical mountain forest. Anxious to protect his artistic vision, Sebastiao refuses to allow some of the effects of his work to be filmed. There is growing tension and father and son stop talking.
Sebastião, Jacques and Juliano walk along the island in search of the way of life in the wild. They spend most of their time on a peninsula made of pebbles inhabited by walruses about to migrate.
Everyday, they explore the beaches despite the presence of a roaming white bear…
In their small makeshift shelter, Juliano tries to ask his father how he manages to live with the suffering of others and death.
At the heart of a region of lush vegitation and wildlife , father and son set off on their last journey. In spite of friction they eventually find a way to communicate and get to know each other.
2- In Paris : family life
Juliano films and talks to his family in their Parisian flat : there is Lelia, Sebastiao’s wife and mother of their two children, including Rodrigo, the couple’s second son who just turned 32 and suffers from Down Syndrome.
Lelia speaks about Sebastiao’s work, which dominated family life as well her collaboration with her husband as head of Amazonas Agency. She also tells about exile and the first years spent in Paris, before Sebastiao discovered his vocation as a photographer. She mentions how the various projects have influenced their lives.
With Rodrigo, images are also the focal point, those of his Dad’s, his own as well since Rodrigo has drawn astonishing pictures for many years…
3 – In Paris : Wim and Sebastião meet
In Sebastião’s flat and at Amazonas Agency, exclusive to the photographer’s work, Wim and Sebastiao hold several meetings. Together they speak freely on topics that are part of Salgado’s work and life.
- Contrasting locations : from « Other Americas » to « Genesis »
Wim, taking his cue from various collections of images, explores with Sebastião their context, their history and the choices forced upon the photographer in his work.
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