“All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt” director Raven Jackson is taking her time.
“I’m interested in patience,” she says ahead of her feature debut’s San Sebastian screening, following the Sundance premiere earlier this year.
“I am interested in slow cinema, even though in the U.S. it’s not as prominent. When I was in the edit [with Lee Chatametikool], I knew that many audience members are not used to such a pace. But that challenge excited me.”
“I am working on a short now that takes its time too, but I wonder to what degree it will continue with my next feature. There’s no world where it makes sense for a hug to last 15 seconds and I’m not sure if every one of my films will ask for such patience. If they do, I’m going to give it to them.”
In the A24 release “All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt” – produced by Maria Altamirano, “Moonlight’s” Barry Jenkins, Adele Romanski and Mark Ceryak – Jackson focuses on a Black woman’s life in Mississippi, as well as the people and places that are important to her.
Charleen McClure, “Obi-Wan Kenobi’s” Moses Ingram, Kaylee Nicole Johnson, Reginald Helms Jr., Sheila Atim, Chris Chalk, Jayah Henry and Zainab Jah star.
“Making this film mirrored these [on-screen] connections in a lot of ways, which was beautiful. I wanted to show love that is present,” she adds.
“Showing this community, this feeling of being held and supported, was important to me. Even when these characters can’t be together or if they are never going to see each other again, at least they will have that embrace.
Jackson, a poet and a photographer, tried to bring her own sensibility to the unhurried, sensual story.
“Recently, I was talking to someone and they compared this film to a poem. I wanted to make you feel without relying on dialogue. Some of it is inside of me, but it was a balance of honoring who I am and listening to what the film wanted.”
Without explaining too much – or without providing concrete dates – as suggested by Variety, Jackson dives right inside of her protagonist’s head.
“I love how you put it, because when I am thinking about time, these situations are happening right now, all at once. I know the years and so did my collaborators, but I’m not giving you any clear markers. I wanted to preserve that state of feeling things rather than knowing exactly where you are,” she adds.
“I have such reverence for quiet, for stillness, for things that aren’t said. I guess it has poured its way into this film.”
Despite covering decades in Mack’s life, Jackson chose to celebrate quiet moments instead of listing its usual milestones.
“I wanted to focus on seemingly small moments that make up a life. It speaks to my previous short [‘Røtter’], because that film also explored insignificant yet stinging moments in the lives of different women and girls,” she says.
“Your grandmother telling you a story is a profound moment. When you are laying on the grass, listening to nature, that’s profound too. I didn’t feel the need to have really big happenings. They can seem ‘small,’ but I don’t think they are.”
In “All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt,” they often take up the entire frame.
“When I’m looking back on big transitions in my own life, they often had to do with these small moments or just with remembering the texture of someone’s hand. When you show them like that, when you can see every vein and the life that runs through it, it’s like showing the whole world.”
The world that’s full of joy and affection, with her characters quietly celebrating their bonds.
“Life has many emotions, but it also has love, joy and a sense of possibility. It felt important to explore that with the film. Going forward, I know that sense of connection will be an important thread in my work,” states Jackson.
“There is a quote that came up a lot when we were working, by [13th century poet] Rumi: ‘The wound is the place where the light enters you.’ That’s something my collaborators and I spoke about a lot. We live in a very complex world, very dense, but whether it’s through nature or silence with myself, the light gets in.”
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