Poetic and tactile, “All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt” is an ambitious and striking debut from writer / director Raven Jackson. The storytelling is unhurried and observational, and she places a stronger emphasis on highly emotional and meaningful storytelling rather than enjoyable entertainment. This isn’t a film that will be appreciated by everyone, but the dreamlike quality of the filmmaking is mesmerizing.
The film, which features a nontraditional narrative and storytelling, tells the life history of Mack (Charleen McClure, Kaylee Nicole Johnson), a black woman in Mississippi. We see her experiences through routine observations of day-to-day life, from childhood to adulthood. The film expresses how events shape us from our time to birth up until our eventual death, and how our connections with others (and with places) embody our personalities and souls.
Jackson’s film is rich and vivid, and having grown up in a small rural town in the South myself, the lead character’s experience was relatable to me in a lot of ways. There’s a focus on family and relationships, but also a strong sense of place emotion. From the smallest moments of joy to the most traumatizing, Mack’s experiences are conveyed in sequences of memory, feeling, and sound. Through a soundtrack of cicadas, storms, wind, and water, Jackson captures the sensation of memory with a tangible quality. Her world features minimal dialogue and a series of monotonous close-ups (especially of hands), and it plays like visual art rather than a traditional narrative feature.
“All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt” is the type of film that I’m glad I watched, yet I don’t want to ever see again because it’s extremely tedious, slow-moving, and repetitive. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be celebrated for the work of art that it is.
By: Louisa Moore