In bits and pieces, patiently and from up close, All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt weaves together the portrait of an African-American woman named Mackenzie, or in short. Her stream of thoughts, sometimes clear, sometimes murky, takes the viewer from Mackenzie's birth to adulthood. Mack grows up during the 1970s with her sister Josie in rural Mississippi, where people seem made of earth and water, passed down from generation to generation. "Not just earth," their grandmother clarifies, "you have to find the right bank and dig for it." Anchored in the landscape, the sisters learn from their father how to catch fish and from their mother how to skin them. Mack's memories of family, friendship, love and grief flow into each other.
All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt marks the delicate feature debut of Raven Jackson, who took her first steps as a director-screenwriter in 2018 with the award-winning short film Nettles. Jackson is also a photographer and poet. Her films are naturally bathed in poetry and find inspiration in photography, in this case a series of photos she took of her parents. Jackson plucked the title from a poem she wrote in 2015 after a conversation with her grandmother about the custom among black women in rural southern American of eating clay soil together. A tradition that can be traced back to West Africa. Just like in Nettles - divided into six small chapters - Jackson decided to play with narrative structure here, assisted by Apichatpong Weerasethakul's editor Lee Chatametikool. From this, a fragile anthology of delicate vignettes is born, though the whole is more than the sum of its parts.
Co-produced by Barry Jenkins and well received ar the Sundance Film Festival, All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt thrives on fragile close-ups and long-held shots, like an intimate embrace with someone you don't want to let go. Rather than with words, characters speak in verses of gestures and glances. On the soundtrack, a symphony of crickets, rain and other sounds of nature rhymes wonderfully with a hint of orchestral music and some nostalgic records from Mack's past. This is cinema that whispers, caresses, cradles and anoints.
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United States of America