Director Raven Jackson Discusses ‘All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt’ with The Reel Critic
Written by Vocalo Radio on October 20, 2023
Reggie “The Reel Critic” Ponder sits down with director Raven Jackson to discuss All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt, decades-spanning exploration a Black woman’s life in Mississippi.
During the Chicago International Film Festival, Reggie “The Reel Critic” Ponder viewed a screening of Raven Jackson’s 2023 film All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt — and got the chance to speak with the director herself. Jackson explained the film covers every aspect of human life, from mundane experiences such as holding hands with loved ones to profound moments such as extreme heartbreak and loss. Jackson explained she hopes viewers are encompassed by the experience, and the film gets “under the audience’s skin in some way.”
“A question I was asking in the making of the film is, ‘If our lives were to flood, what are those moments that would rise to the surface? And how would they speak to each other, how would they spill in between each other?,’” she reflected. “I really feel this film is an experience, is one I’m hoping washes over the audience.”
All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt stars Charleen McClure in the lead role of Mack. It features Kaylee Nicole Johnson as young Mack, Zainab Jah as older Mack and Moses Ingram as Josie. The film is presented in partnership with A24 and was an official selection at Sundance Film Festival 2023.
The Chicago International Film Festival runs from October 11 through October 22. There is no official public release date for All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt at this time, but Raven Jackson’s short films Nettles and A Guide To Breathing Underwater are available on the Criterion Channel.
LISTEN TO PART TWO OF THEIR CONVERSATION HERE:
Reggie Ponder: Hey, I’m Reggie Ponder, the Reel Critic, and wow, the Chicago International Film Festival has been all I expected and more. I got a chance to speak with writer and director Raven Jackson about her film All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt. Now, the synopsis from the studio is, this is a lyrical, decade-spanning exploration across a woman’s life in Mississippi. The feature debut from award winning poet, photographer and filmmaker Raven Jackson is a haunting and richly layered portrait, a beautiful ode to the generations of people and places that shape us. Well, we don’t have to just listen to that because we can hear it from Raven Jackson herself. Here’s an excerpt from my interview.
I’m here with Raven Jackson to talk about her film, All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt. People want to know what the movies are about first — “Reggie, what are you trying to get me to go see now?” Talk about this movie, as if you were giving me that 30-second or one-minute pitch for people to come and see.
Raven Jackson: Yeah, you know, All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt lyrically explores the life of Mack, a Black woman in Mississippi. And it does so in a very fluid way. And a question I was asking in the making of the film is, “If our lives were to flood, what are those moments that would rise to the surface? And how would they speak to each other, how would they spill in between each other?” And so I really feel this film is an experience, is one I’m hoping washes over the audience. And, again, it’s a fluid journey through a life. And it’s both profound moments, like the loss of someone you love, but also more mundane, like touching grandma’s hands and sitting in quiet. All those moments exist in the film.
RP: When you say “washes over,” speak more to that.
RJ: Yeah, like an experience, one where you’re in your body, and you’re experiencing these things. And we’re fluidly moving through a life and it’s an emotional journey, rather than a traditional plot-driven one, like a plot point A, plot point B. And so I hope it’s an invitation, the film is an invitation to allow yourself to receive a story a different way. You know there’s a story there, but it’s not given to you in the way you may be used to. And so when I say “washing over you,” that speaks to it, like not looking for the, quote unquote, traditional way a story may be received, but allowing it to be received a different way.
RP: I’m really glad that you speak about that, because this is a different movie. It’s not linear in its presentation, which makes you have to focus in a different kind of way. What was your thinking in doing that?
RJ: Yeah, it goes back to wanting it to be a fluid experience of a life and be experiential, be an experience. There’s not a lot of dialogue in the film, wanting to allow the quiet moments of our lives to be loud. The mundane moments of our lives, to give a lot of reverence to those. But again, also, the more profound moments also exist in the film. I wanted this experience of a life to be an experience, to have the sound be very intentional and hopefully evocative and visceral. I wanted to make a film that got under the audience’s skin, in a way.
RP: All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt will run in New York and LA, and a wider release hasn’t been announced yet. So I’ll share more from this interview on my website, and around the wider release. Now her short films, Nettles and A Guide To Breathing Underwater, are streaming on the Criterion Channel. I’m on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube @TheReelCritic, and I’ll see you next week.
Interview and audio production by Reggie Ponder
Introduction written by Abigail Harrison
Transcription and editing for length and clarity by Morgan Ciocca
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