Raven Jackson was originally a poet, and this background is at the heart of her eloquent, imaginative first film. The Salt of All Dirt Roads showcases the lives of black women in the rural South through elegant vignettes. In theory, this approach sounds too precious to survive. Over the decades, the film has minimal dialogue as Mike’s story begins with 1991 girlhood, and the narrative provides Slices of her life in the time-lapse episode. But miraculously, all its elements come together. Jackson’s adventurous and beautiful films bring pure artistic vision to the silver screen.
Jackson cites Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust as an influence, and, like the one that pioneered Sexual 1991 movie, each scene is beautifully composed to convey a wealth of information and emotion. Jomo Fray’s extensive cinematography, shot in mm, story set in woods, river banks and dirt roads. Rainstorms, thunder and the sound of crickets are an integral part of the experience. Mike is never far from home, and throughout the film, Southern black culture also shapes the family story, with Mike’s mother, sister and grandmother a powerful force.
All dirt roads smell of salt
Bottom line A marvel of imagery and emotion.
Sundance Film Festival (American Drama Competition) Director and screenwriter: Raven Jackson actor:Charleen McClure , Moses Ingram, Sheila Atim , Chris Jock, Kelly Nicole Johnson, Reginald Helms Jr.
1 hour 37 minutes
The film generally moves roughly chronologically, but also facilitates memories flashing forward or backward. Even without a traditional narrative, All Dirt Roads creates a sense of whole life. In early episodes, Mike is a wide-eyed kid, played by Carrie Nicole Johnson, who is learning how to fish with her father (Chris Chock). Building the style of the film, we see close-ups of her hands in the water, then move on the scales of the fish. The mouth was still moving after catching it, the girl was obviously reluctant to let it die, and said nothing. In other episodes, she rides silently with her sister Josie to her mother’s funeral and then rides home in the back of her father’s pickup truck. The setting and the stillness of the little girl tell us all we need to know. As a child Mike rode his bike with her best friend Wood on dirt roads, and when she was younger she kissed him.
Since his teens, Charlene has played Mike as McClure, Jackson’s friend who hadn’t acted before but shared the same unspoken affection The other actors are on par. Sheila Atim (The Underground Railroad and The Woman King
) Plays Mack’s mother in several graphic scenes, one putting on lipstick for a party and another holding her as a baby. Moses Ingram (the third sister in Obi-Wan Kenobi ) plays Mike’s sister Josie, quiet and strong, Josie is in her sister’s life The supporting role gradually emerged.
Jackson’s time-lapse is always clear. Similar hair, two braids, tells us we’re still looking at Mike, and gold hoop earrings suggest she’s an older iteration. The camera often looks at people from behind, with motionless characters facing away from us. Body language speaks louder than words here. When adult Mike and Wood (Reginald Helm Jr.) meet again, he’s a married father who’s on leave from a job as a manager somewhere, and there’s a pain in their faces alone , a history of loss and love. As they embrace, Jackson lets the camera linger for a long time. The pace is leisurely, but that’s not a euphemism for slow. The immersive style is mesmerizing, and after Wood leaves, we see Mike from behind again, and we can hear her shoulders heaving over a low sob. Such scenes become moving, even if the events behind them are deliberately sketched out.
Another important vignette shows Mike at her hospital bedside with her newborn daughter, Josie. It will take a while to go back to that scene and understand it better, and even then the situation might have been conveyed more fully. Mack’s pivotal decision about her child is a rare instance of Jackson’s narrative being more ambiguous than an ellipse. A pile of clay looking for nuggets to eat. As their grandmother later explained, her own mother taught her to do the same, a tradition that connects the women in the family to nature. The movie itself doesn’t say that the custom of eating clay dates back to West Africa, but it doesn’t have to. It is enough to know that the grandmother passed on something meaningful. In a poetic way, All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt demands explanation, not ordinary explanation.
While Jackson’s stirring film is always poetic, it’s also accessible. A bit of proof: it was released by A24, a company not in the rental business whose movies disappeared in a Down the art rabbit hole.
All Credits 1970
Venue: Sundance Film Festival (US Drama Competition)Publisher: A35
Production Company: A, Pastel Cast: Charlene McClure, Moses Ingram, Sheila Atim, Chris Chalk, Kelly Nicole Johnson, Reginald Helms Jr.
Director and Screenwriter: Raven Jackson
Producers: Maria Altamirano, Barry Jenkins, Adele Romanski, Mark Ceryak Photography by Jomo Fray
Production Designer: Juliana Barreto Barreto Costume Designer: Pamela Sheppard Editor: Lee Chatametikool
Music: Sasha Gordon, Vicor Magro
Casting: Candice Alustiza-Lee 1 hour37 minutes
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