All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt
The viewer first encounters the film’s protagonist Mackenzie as a sensitive child growing up in the Deep South of the United States: out fishing with her father, she pets the animals they trapped and tries to release them back into the lake. Back home, she is reluctant to disembowel the catch when her mother instructs her to. But none of these acts are committed out of cruelty, there is respect for nature and for earth, for the dirt humans emerge from and shall return to.
All grown up, she and her childhood sweetheart Wood reconnect, and she tells him, “I’m a manager now.” Only through distant background sounds of shopping carts wheeled across asphalt do we understand that they are outside a supermarket, that this is where “Mack” works.
Throughout its 92-minute runtime, the camera stays intimately close to its characters, capturing details of their hands, or the back of their heads. As the audience witnesses different stages of Mackenzie’s life, they come to understand that her story is equally that of her sister, her mother and her daughter, that there is a circular commonality in the (Black) female experience. The location is so inherent and indispensable to their lives, the usual establishing shots positioning these women in their surroundings are not even deemed necessary. The spectator doesn’t need on-screen context to know why the house of an African-American family is engulfed in flames in the third scene, so director Raven Jackson doesn’t supply any. Her background in photography becomes evident as both in terms of structure and style, her debut feature evokes the feeling of a family album of moving pictures and sense memories.
Mackenzie is played by three actresses: Kayla Nicole Johnson, Charleen McClure and Zainab Jah, and it is a testament to their performances, as well as Jackson’s directorial decisions, that we seamlessly grasp that they are each portraying the same woman at different stages in her life.
All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt forfeits appealing to a larger audience due to the lack of a coherent narrative but will no doubt find its fans in the arthouse crowd.
All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2023 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt here: