All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt is a poetic, sparsely worded visual experiment that prioritizes sensation over a linear narrative plot. The film is an homage to personal history and memory that plays out in a random fashion. The focus is on the emotions attached to the memories of our protagonist without giving away much about the character or even the reason behind certain choices she makes in life. Raven Jackson does not concern herself with the details; instead, she wants the audience to experience the tactile sensations that trigger the memory of the protagonist. The camera often shifts from the face to the hands of the characters, and it is in its movement that we get a sense of the emotions that the characters experience.
Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
As a result of All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt’s disjointed approach, it takes some time to figure out the character we are focusing on, but once we familiarize ourselves with the visual markers, it becomes easier to comprehend. At the center of this memory unfolding is Mack, and during the course of the film, we witness the various stages of her life. As a little black girl growing up in Mississippi, Mack remembered going fishing to the lake with her father and her sister, Josie. It would break her heart to watch the fish gasp for air once they were pulled out of the water. She remembered the feel of the wet, scaly texture of the fish against her hand. Mack enjoyed stroking her fingers through the water and feeling the silt. These textures reminded her of her home, of her childhood, of her memories with her father, and of the irreplaceable innocence of summer days.
Summer in Mississippi reminded Mack of the days she spent cycling around the town with her best friend, Wood. It was during those days that she started to understand the idea of romance and about finding out how to kiss someone for the first time. Mack remembered the red lipstick her mother wore to a party, and she watched her in awe. From the sparkle in her eyes, it is evident that she longed to grow up and replicate all the little habits she had picked up from her mother. These little habits might as well be passed down through generations, and they would always evoke a feeling of nostalgia. The memory of her parents dancing at the party remained etched in Mack’s mind. The moment was loaded with emotions, and the chemistry that her parents shared in that instance stayed forever with Mack. Perhaps it was the future that she envisioned for herself. Their mother passed away when they were young, and the texture of her red nail paint continued to linger in Mack’s memory of her. After losing their mother, the sisters found support in each other, though they often wondered how different their lives would have been had their mother survived.
What is the significance of personal history?
The sisters sought comfort in the touch of their grandmother, who taught them at a young age that they were all made up of dirt and water. It is the land that binds them together, no matter where they eventually disperse. Mack would one day grow up to say the same words to her newborn: “You are made of dirt, you know that, and water.” Spatial sound is equally important in the memory exercise—the wind blowing through the leaves, the chirping of the crickets, the sweet songs of birds—all of it reminded Mack of her childhood days.
One of the most memorable moments in All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt is when Mack and Wood reunite after years of not seeing each other. Even though we are told very little about the characters, we can assume that Wood had moved out of town, and he eventually married another woman and started a family with her. Mack was pleasantly surprised to see him after a long time. Even though life did not pan out the way they wanted, they continued to admire one another. We do not know what kept them apart, but it was a painful decision that they never got over. As little as we know about the characters, the myriad of emotions that they experienced in that moment were palpable. The long embrace said a lot more than words could have ever conveyed. The focus remained on the hands—the tight grab, not wanting to let go, and eventually breaking away from the embrace with Mack’s hands longing to be caressed again.
The memory of finding her mother’s lifeless body lying on the muddy bank by the lake during a heavy shower continued to torment Mack now and then. As a little girl, it took her time to fathom the entire situation. From a young age, she understood the permanence of loss and the pain of living with it. Becoming a mother was not an easy decision for Mack, and we eventually find out that before giving birth, she decided to hand her baby to her sister. Josie was married and could provide steady support to her child. Mack feared she would fail as a mother. Wood was ready to support her, but it was not the solution she was searching for. Throughout her pregnancy, she knew that the child belonged to her sister, and she had accepted her role as her aunt. Josie was by her side when the baby was born, and Mack named her Lily before handing her over to her sister. Before the child was born, Mack had remarked that she sounded just like their mama. In All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt, the women in the family played a decisive role in Mack’s life, and because they were all composed of the same elements, it did not matter who the baby identified as her mother. Lily grew up to participate in the same activities Mack did. She was taught to skin fish freshly caught from the lake. Mack enjoyed watching Lily live the same childhood that she once did. The relationship between Mack and Josie remained intact.
During All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt‘s ending, Mack and Lily watched the rain pour together. Rain as a motif is repeated throughout the film, and Mack preferred to take in the melancholic feeling that it brought along. They were quite like the rain Mack believed; through generations, they changed form, but they were all the same within; their shared history tightly held them together, and the little practices turned into habits as they went on being passed through generations. Even if they grew up to become vastly different, it was their core that would always keep them connected, just like water, which changes form but is made up of the same elements. Her daughter was as much like her as her sister, her mother, her grandmother, and her ancestors. Eating dirt as a practice has been repeatedly shown in the film. It was knowledge passed through generations. A practice that made them feel closer to their ancestors and the nature around them. It was a reminder of where they came from and their struggle for existence.