All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt
(dir. Raven Jackson)
By: Adam Freed
American poet and director Raven Jackson suffers no crisis of confidence. In her initial voyage into feature filmmaking, Jackson helms the patient and contemplative multigenerational story of a southern black family in All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt. In what is sure to warrant a strong critical response, Jackson’s story follows MacKenzie “Mack” from adolescence through her surprising adult role within her deeply rooted bloodline. Told in a gracefully non-linear fashion, audiences are asked to digest small disconnected bites of a much richer tapestry prior to considering the sum of its parts.
As is the case in her poetry, Ms. Jackson chooses to highlight and elevate the fleeting moments that rarely are given time for consideration. Extended close ups hang just beyond what will be comfortable for some viewers, as Jackson seems to urge audiences to take more of an art museum approach to considering each and every inch of the frame. In what could be argued to be a semi-silent film, Jackson’s approach allows incredible latitude for each set of eyes to draw their own conclusions, and interpret the story in a way that mirrors their own existence. A praiseworthy choice that hearkens back to the mentality of a true poet. The film’s rural southern setting is the intersection between pastoral and plain. A decision that allows the generational nuances between clothing, cars and the evolution of the natural landscape to suffice as markers of passing time.
Thematically the film carries a micro focus, returning consistently to human hands and the conduit they provide to interaction with the world and to one another. Hands that dig in the red southern clay, generational hands, young and perfect or worn and withered. The dark creased hands of a grandmother wordlessly passing her wisdom down into the cherubic hands of her granddaughter. So much conveyed through painstaking stillness. Raven Jackson is a directorial name to know. All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt may not be a runaway success with broad audiences, but the future of the poetic visual arts is in good hands.
Target Score: 8/10 - With the patience of a painter, writer and director Raven Jackson helms a quiet contemplative film of tremendous depth concerning multigenerational family evolution.
All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt is being screened in conjunction with the 59th Annual Chicago International Film Festival.